The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan
No better way to lead water-themed reviews than with one of the definitive books on the subject in recent memory. Dan Egan’s Pulitzer Prize finalist is a compulsively readable clarion call that examines the importance of the Great Lakes to the continent at large and the dire threats they face. The book is also the focus of this year’s Elm Grove Reads, the Friends of the Elm Grove Library’s annual community book group event. Don’t miss your opportunity meet Dan Egan and talk about his book at Sunset Playhouse on Wednesday, October 2! Tickets are $5 and available at the library. ~Noah Weckwerth~
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Lindbergh’s name is familiar, linked to both tragedy and fame. But did you know she was an aviator in her own right and won aviation awards? She also wrote multiple books of letters and essays. Gift from the Sea is a meditative, introspective classic. Lindbergh took a solo vacation to the Florida seashore in her late 40s. She says she wrote “in order to think out my own particular pattern of living, my own individual balance of life, work and human relationships.” She collected shells as she walked the beach, and used five different types of shells as symbols in the book to represent phases of a woman’s life. Before our modern-day authors began to write about tidying, downsizing or living off the grid, Lindbergh spoke of the need for simplicity. Although the book was first published in 1955, it still speaks to us today. A lovely, gentle book. ~Sarah Muench~
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
Written as a tribute to the Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, this novel paints a vivid picture of life in the Appalachian hills during the 1930's. FDR's New Deal provided funding for local people to deliver books to residents of remote communities, offering both employment and literacy. Nineteen year-old Cussy Carter signs up as a librarian, riding her mule up mountains and into hollows in every kind of weather to bring both books and hope. She courageously battles poverty and prejudice towards herself and her family. Like her parents, Cussy was born with a rare genetic blood condition which affects their skin color, and they are alternately shunned or sought after for medical research.
I enjoyed listening to the lyrical prose of the author in this new audio book. I also liked the hard copy book and was fascinated by the historic photos which the author includes in the postscript, as she further describes the Pack Horse Library Project. ~Nancy Arevalo~
All in a Drop: How Antony van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World by Lori Alexander, illustrated by Vivien Mildenberger (Recommended for grades 2 and up.)
If you have studied biology at all, you probably have heard of van Leeuwenhoek and the microbes he discovered when he created one of the first microscopes. What you may not know, is that he was a draper, not a scientist, who created the microscope for a better view of the fabrics he worked with. Van Leeuwenhoek was very curious and continued to make discoveries for the rest of his life, including identifying microbes that have since been found to cause diseases. This engaging nonfiction title has colorful, whimsical illustrations and will be enjoyed by young scientists and historians. ~Sue Daniels~
The Water Knife by Paulo Bacigalupi
The Water Knife is a harrowing look at a possible future where climate change has rendered the American Southwest a wasteland suffering an eternal drought. In this new world, Texans are considered little more than refugees, in-depth journalism has been replaced entirely with "collapse porn" sensationalism, and greedy corporations are in control of who the water is redirected to. Angel is an enforcer for one such corporation, and when he is dispatched to Phoenix to investigate a brutal murder for his boss, he crosses paths with formerly prestigious journalist named Lucy, who's working on an investigation of her own, and a teenage refugee named Maria, who is desperately trying to get across the border into California. When they begin to hear rumors of a long-forgotten document that could change the course of the war for water, they make a fragile alliance in order to stay alive and maybe even come out on top. The graphic depictions of violent atrocities may not be for all readers, but this novel is a bleak look at our potential future wrapped in an action-packed mystery. ~Racheal Fealy-Layer~
How to Forget: A Daughter’s Memoir by Kate Mulgrew
Actress Kate Mulgrew navigates the rough waters of grief and memory with a fierce compassion in this vivid account of the home care of her parents in their final days. Revisiting their complicated histories as well as her own upbringing in a large, Midwestern Irish Catholic family, it is a blend of practicality and grace that brings the needed perspective to guide her father, dying quickly of cancer, and then her mother, yielding slowly in a fog of Alzheimer’s related dementia. This harrowing and candid memoir is unlike any other I’ve come across on the subject; a must-read for any baby boomer with living parents. ~Shannon McKeown~
The Other Ducks by Ellen Yeomans
Softly illustrated story of two duck friends, This Duck and That Duck, who want to waddle in a line, but it really takes more than the two of them. So This Duck says there should be Other Ducks, but That Duck isn’t sure just what that means. They discover a pond (which they hadn’t ever seen before) and discover swimming and think they have found the Other Ducks, but they are upside down and never come out of the water. Eventually they figure out how to fly and migrate south. When they return home, there is a delightful surprise. Children will be way ahead of This Duck and That Duck in figuring out life in a pond. ~Sharon Passick~
Hattie and Hudson by Chris Van Dusen (Picture Book)
Every morning in the summer, Hattie paddles out into the lake in her canoe to see what she can see. One morning, she begins to sing as she paddles and attracts the attention of a giant, shy lake creature she names Hudson. Hattie knows that her friend Hudson is harmless, but the other lakeside residents are fearful and belligerent. Can Hattie come up with a plan to save Hudson, or will he have to save himself? ~Sue Daniels~
Frozen River (DVD)
Massena, NY borders both Québec and the Mohawk Indian Reservation. For some, the only thing harsher than the weather is the struggle to carve out a living. This is especially true for Ray when her husband runs off with the family’s savings, leaving her and her two kids facing desperate measures. Enter Lila, a widowed Mohawk and reputed human smuggler, just hoping to get her son back. With winter bearing down, Christmas around the corner, and every bad thing that can possibly happen happening, these two resolute women are forced to make decisions that lead to unfathomable consequences. Featuring a devastating performance by Melissa Leo, this bleak depressor is recommended for those who like gut-wrenching films. ~Noah Weckwerth~
Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini
Written by the New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, Jennifer Chiaverini now introduces her readers to Mildred Harnack, a Wisconsinite, who played a prominent role in the German resistance during WWII. As a young graduate student in Madison, Mildred meets Arvid Harnack, a brilliant German student of Economics. They marry in 1926 and return to Germany with a bright future before them. Mildred studies and teaches English in 1930's Berlin and develops a network of friends that includes Martha Dodd, the stylish daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Germany. But the rise of Hitler is changing everything. Mildred, her husband and her friends gather and pass on intelligence as part of a resistance cell, willing to sacrifice their lives in hopes of bringing down the Nazi's. Based on true events, I found Resistance Women to be a highly informative narrative from the perspective of German citizens who fought injustice and sought to defend the oppressed. ~Nancy Arevalo~
The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling
What do you do when your survival relies on a liar obsessed with her own crusade? That's the position Gyre Price finds herself in when she agrees to map cave tunnels for the unreliable Em. Desperate to earn a large chunk of money that will get her to the garden planet where her mother lives, Gyre lies about her qualifications for mapping minerals on a solo cave expedition. That becomes the least of her problems when Em, her above-ground handler, decides to withhold necessary information or administer debilitating drugs whenever it suits her. However, none of that compares to the mounting paranoia Gyre begins to feel when critical supplies go missing and she realizes the members of a lost-for-dead expedition are watching her. This suspenseful sci-fi novel has a claustrophobic terror similar to the movie Alien and will leave you guessing what is real and what is just a hallucination in the dark. ~Rachael Fealy-Layer~
Sport: Ship Dog of the Great Lakes written by Pamela Cameron; illustrated by Renée Graef
Sport was a real dog who was found by the crew of the Hyacinth, a lighthouse tender ship, when they rescued him from the Milwaukee River. Sport was a Newfoundland which is a breed of dog that likes the water, so he was perfectly suited to living on a ship. This picture book tells about Sport's adventures as a ship dog, as well as what it was like to work on a ship on Lake Michigan a hundred years ago. ~Sue Daniels~
Tangerine by Christine Mangan
Three cheers for sundrenched summer suspense. Mid-1950s Morocco is the setting for this atmospheric tale. Newly married Alice Shipley arrives in the coast city of Tangier with her new husband John, in search of adventure and a fresh start. After the incident at Bennington College, the last person she expects to see in Morocco is Lucy Mason, her former roommate and closest confidante. Piecing together the reasons for Lucy’s sudden appearance against her increasing emotional fragility sets the stage for a race against time. What happened in Vermont? Who can she trust? Who can you (the reader) trust? I love how this nail-biter turns the “unreliable narrator” plot device on its head, while exploring women’s roles and relationships in the 1950s. ~Noah Weckwerth~
She Read to Us in the Late Afternoons: A Life in Novels by Kathleen Hill
Because I like reading books about the reading experience, I picked up She Read to Us in the Late Afternoons. Each chapter takes its name from the title of a book the author read at some point and which was especially meaningful to her in that phase of her life. She begins with Willa Cather, moves through Chinua Achebe, Henry James, Gustave Flaubert, Georges Bernanos and finally, Marcel Proust. Particularly significant to Hill’s outlook are the chapters about her years teaching English in Nigeria, and using Things Fall Apart in classroom discussions. Kirkus Reviews says “Hill’s book explores the strange and wondrous resonances between the read and lived while celebrating reading itself as among the most profoundly transformative of human acts” ~Sarah Muench~
If Cats Disappeared From The World by Genki Kawamura
Set in Japan, a young postman with a fatal brain tumor faces a deal with the Devil: agree that something will disappear from the world in exchange for another day of life. After all, he is told, “In order to gain something, you have to lose something.” But what is a man of few pleasures to give up…. chocolate? Too easy. The Devil will choose, and he has to agree or it's all over. One more day…. but what about the next day, when then? You know from the title where this is headed. With or without his faithful companion Cabbage the cat (cleverly named, you’ll see) by his side, is the continuation of his life the most important thing to this solitary man? A simple and amusing short story that first resembles the Twilight Zone gradually becomes a poignant examination of memory and regrets, family and friends, loss and reconciliation and the things that bind us to each other as human beings to make life worth living. ~Shannon McKeown~
The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert
Lou, a talented young chef, is trying to make her struggling restaurant in downtown Milwaukee a success. Al is a British transplant whose witty but scathing restaurant reviews, written under a pen name, please his editor with a strong following. Al arrived in Milwaukee in the dead of winter and does not intend to stay for long. In a stoke of bad timing, Al’s visit to Lou’s restaurant happens to fall on the same day she just found her fiancé in bed with his intern. A chance meeting at a local pub gives Lou something to focus on other than her failing restaurant. Lou is determined to make Al fall in love with her hometown by highlighting all its hidden (and not so hidden) gems. There is one condition: no disclosure or discussion of their work. Full of culinary and local flavor, this book is a great choice for a light summer read. ~Sharon Long~
Gosh, I wonder what this book is about ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Kidding aside, this is an excellent piece of historical fiction. While most have likely heard of Dorothea Lange and her famous photographs, there’s a compelling story behind the lens too. A survivor of polio, Dorothea arrives fresh-faced in 1918 San Francisco, and proceeds to carve a niche for herself while hobnobbing with a coterie of famous artists from the era. But the sacrifices she’s forced to make in her personal life come at a cost, as The Great Depression and WWII splinter the world around her. The author’s choice of first person narration is a risky one, but I think it works here, and it’s interesting to debate the decisions she made and the role of art in the 1930s and 40s. Great for book clubs. ~Noah Weckwerth~
Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl
Save Me the Plums is Reichl’s newest memoir. She tells the story of her transition from The New York Times restaurant critic to editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, and her decade working for Conde Nast until the magazine was shut down in 2009. She went from a job where she dined out at restaurants for 14 meals each week, to a position where she built and managed a capable staff of 60 people who produced a fabulous periodical. Reichl’s book is a delight to read. Her stories are delicious, and so are her descriptions of party food and test kitchen recipes. ~Sarah Muench~
Ocean Meets Sky by Terry & Eric Fan (Children’s Picture Book)
With lush illustrations, readers will take a voyage alongside Finn who wants to honor his grandfather who has died. Young Finn remembers stories told of a magical place where the ocean meets the sky and so embarks on a trip to find where whales and jellyfish soar and birds and castles float. A lovely read to linger over with your favorite little one. ~Paulette Brooks~
In 1938, the radio was the main source of information and entertainment for most people. On Halloween Eve, the radio play being performed was based on the science fiction story The War of the Worlds by HG Wells which was about Martians invading Earth. Orson Welles had updated the story and made it sound like a news broadcast so that people who weren’t paying close attention thought there was an actual invasion. Panic ensued! It is interesting to learn about this event in its historical context; the fact that Europe was on the edge of WWII makes it a little more understandable that people were nervous about being invaded. The discussions that followed this event, about censorship and limiting what could be broadcast, are similar to those we are having today about the internet, and how to know what is true and what is not. Recommended for Grades 8 and up. ~Sue Daniels~
Born premature at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2016, Fiona (named for her wiggly, Shrek-like ears) captured the attention of the world and made history as zookeepers, scientists, veterinarians and even nurses from a children’s hospital raced save her life and help her to thrive with proper nourishment and social bonding. Just watch this rubbery, smiley bovine of the water get to know her parents by trustingly mouthing the teeth in their wide open jaws … ok, this is simply the cutest, most adorable and irresistible animal story you will ever see! 22 minutes: for all ages and attention spans. ~Shannon McKeown~
Entertaining and thoughtfully sensitive, Backman reflects on being a father and wants to communicate important life lessons to his young son. Enjoy the author’s sense of humor and his heartfelt letter of love to his boy. A great father’s day read. Highly recommended! ~Paulette Brooks~
The Pursuits of Lord Kit Cavanaugh by Stephanie Laurens
For fans of Regency romances and especially Stephanie Laurens, this title does not fail. Yes, a somewhat predictable plot, but the intrigue certainly makes up for that. But, like all romance novels this follows the general plot line not leaving the ending in much doubt. The adventures and intrigue getting there are what make all of the Cynster and Cynster related novels such a delight. Protective men paired with women who firmly believe in thinking and acting for themselves, as well as the men they love. As this is volume two of the Cavanaugh’s I recommend reading The Designs of Lord Randolph Cavanaugh first if you can. The taming of Ryder Cavanaugh gives you even more background on the brothers. ~Sharon Passick~
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Currently there is a lot of buzz regarding this month’s premier of “Big Little Lies, Season 2” on HBO. Why not read the book that started everything? Big Little Lies follows the lives of three women whose paths cross at kindergarten orientation. Madeline is outspoken and fierce, deftly managing the chaos of family life with her three children and second husband. She is bound to make the best of the reappearance of her first husband and his new family. Celeste, Madeline’s close friend, is raising energetic twin boys and seems to have everything – money, good looks, a successful career she chose to leave after having the twins, and a doting husband. Jane, a young single mother, is new in town and seems unsure how to navigate her surroundings. Who better to show her the ropes than Madeline? The book opens with the school’s Trivia Night, where something goes terribly wrong. The story then goes back in time to reveal the events leading up to Trivia Night. Moriarty is an Australian author and unlike the HBO series, her story is set in Australia. This makes for interesting reading on two counts: 1) the seasons in the southern hemisphere are the opposite of the seasons in the northern hemisphere; and 2) the social hierarchy in schools in our own communities is eerily similar in Australia. With a captivating story and a fascinating cast of characters, this is a great summer read. ~Sharon Long~
I write this review in appreciation of our fabulous technical services librarian and compiler of these here recommendations, Paulette Brooks, who is nothing like her titular namesake in this movie. We think. The Paulette of this darkly comedic French film is, at its outset, a lonely, racist widow living in Parisian housing projects who’s fallen on hard times. And you know what desperate times call for! Through an entertaining set of circumstances, she becomes a successful drug dealer, accumulating a colorful variety of acquaintances and pickles along the way. This may not sound like your typical movie fare, and it’s not. But the film’s distressing beginning gives way to a delightful coming of late-age tale, with an entertaining coterie of characters and an ending that should make you smile. ~Noah Weckwerth~
Women Talking by Miriam Toews
A slim novel with a startling punch. Based on real events that took place in a remote Mennonite colony, what do you do when the only world you know is no longer a possibility? For the women talking, the safety of they and their children are at peril, and not a single solution is without significant risk and fright. Will they choose to flee, or stay and fight? Behold the book that has been heralded as astonishing – wickedly funny, yet sad and shocking, Women Talking is one of the most anticipated books of 2019, and it delivers. Book clubs take note; you’ll want to extend your discussion times for this one. ~Noah Weckwerth~
Fascinating account of the 1986 fire in the Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library and the ensuing arson investigation. The author does a superb job of expanding into the history of the grand old library building and the characters who worked there, as well as examining the impact of a large urban library has on its current day patrons. Wonderfully readable and highly recommended! ~Paulette Brooks~
Come Find Me by Megan Miranda (Young Adult novel)
Kennedy and Nolan are brought together because they each are searching for the origin of a mysterious radio signal, hoping it will help them deal with recent family tragedies. Nolan’s family has been searching for his missing brother for two years without success and Nolan thinks that the radio signal is his brother’s way of communicating with him. Kennedy’s family has been through a crisis of similar magnitude, but Kennedy’s memories about the fateful night are unclear. As Kennedy and Nolan begin to investigate together, their two stories begin to intersect and the missing pieces needed to make sense of these tragedies start to fall into place. However, each new answer brings greater danger and the teens must decide how much they are willing to risk to solve the puzzle. This mystery/thriller is recommended for ages 15 and up. ~Sue Daniels~
The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson
Two highly skilled embroiderers will be chosen to embroider the wedding gown of Princess Elizabeth. In 1947, when the London design house of Norman Hartnell was commissioned to create the dress for the royal wedding, Miriam Dassin and Ann Hughes were given this honor. It's an amazing opportunity for a French emigree who survived the Nazi's and an ordinary working class English girl. Life in post-war London was bleak, rationing was common and the celebration of a royal marriage was the event that rallied the public and drew everyone's attention. Half a century later, when Ann's grand-daughter discovers a sample of fine embroidery in her grandmother's house, she begins a quest to discover where it came from. Written from multiple points of view (Ann's, Miriam's and grand-daughter Heather), I found "The Gown" to be a wonderful blend of historical facts and compelling fiction. ~Nancy Arevalo~
Big Sonia [DVD]
In her bright outfits, big hair and chunky jewelry, tiny nonagenarian Sonia Warshawski is the kind of Eastern European immigrant grandmother any Milwaukee baby boomer would recognize. Still vibrant and working at age 92, her popular tailor shop is the last bastion of a failed Kansas City shopping mall. But 35 years of alternations and interactions aren’t the whole story, for “Big Sonia” is one the last survivors of the Holocaust and with an urgency brought by time, she shares her dark backstory to hushed assemblies of students, civic groups and, notably, hardened criminals of a men’s prison. When shocking details of her ordeal leave listeners aghast, she sagely observes, “it is difficult for a good person to understand.”
Hers is a vivid memory of unimaginable horror; loss of family, generational trauma and survivor’s guilt. The story of her capture, imprisonment and ultimate deliverance from three death camps so long ago are effectively illustrated by primitive-style animation which underlines the horrific nostalgia rather than exploiting it. When the story veers back to Sonia the popular shop owner and loving Jewish grandma, the words of a weeping inmate are all the more resonant: “because you got out, now I will too.” ~Shannon McKeown~
What does a rural town with a population of barely 10,000 do when 6,595 foreigners are stranded there? This is the scenario that plays out in The Day the World Came to Town. Following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, the FAA closed the U.S. air space and ordered the immediate grounding of all airplanes. At the time, there were more than 250 planes flying over the Atlantic Ocean on their way to the U.S. that were forced to land in Canada. Thirty-eight of those planes landed in Gander, Newfoundland with no time-table for when they would be able to depart again. DeFede closely follows the experiences of more than a dozen people including citizens of Gandor, passengers and crew members. The response of the citizens of Gander and the patience of the passengers and crew was remarkable. There were countless acts of generosity and hospitality; as if they were welcoming home family members and not complete strangers. In a time when we are constantly hearing about what divides us, I greatly enjoyed reading about the selfless acts by the people of Gander and the gratitude of the recipients. ~Sharon Long~
By The [Library] Book Interview with EGPL Librarian Sharon Passick
What books are on your nightstand? Books I’m ready to start reading are: Monica McCarthy’s series Lost Platoon and Roni Lore’s series Ones who got away. In my car I am listening to Catherine Coulter’s Brides series, on my phone I am listening to one of the later Stephanie Laurens’ Bar Cynster books and am currently reading her newest title (after going back to the first of her Bar Cynster series and going through all 20 some of them again.
What genre do you most enjoy? My first inclination is Regency romances, next Contemporary romances followed by mysteries like Faye Kellerman or Victoria Thompson. They should all be paperback and in a series of at least 3 titles, 10 or more is even better.
Which genre do you avoid? I avoid most non-fiction and any scary suspense like Stephen King type books.
What is your favorite movie based on a book? The Secret Life of Bees was one of the few movies I’ve seen where the experience of the movie was as powerful, if not more than the book [by Sue Monk Kidd] Unlike the Baldacci book where they eliminated the narrator of the story and completely changed the point of view.
Finding Dorothy is a novel based on the story of Maud Gage Baum, the wife of the legendary author, L. Frank Baum. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz may be one of the greatest children's stories of all time, but the story of Maud's life was notable in itself. She was the daughter of a well-known women's rights activist and attended Cornell University in the early days of co-ed admittance. From how she met Frank, to their life together on the road with his theater company, to their days in South Dakota and then Chicago, we learn of events that contributed to the fanciful story of Oz. By 1939, the beloved book is being produced as a movie, and Maud Baum wants to make sure that the production is true to her husband's vision. Maud finds ways to be admitted to MGM Studios, meeting Judy Garland and seeing the production come to life. I liked how the author goes back and forth between 1939 and the late 1800's, between Maud as Frank's widow, and Maud as Frank's sweetheart and young wife. A well-written story based on well-researched information. ~Nancy Arevalo~
The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson
In the past 127 years since the infamous murders, armchair detectives (myself included) have plowed through countless books, movies, plays and other media both fictional and factual which have attempted to solve the crime and explain the enigma which is Lizzie Borden. While all have added to the legend, it remains the quintessential “cold case.” But now, a book has come out with something new that tops them all: actual evidence that the truth might have been documented and could be revealed at last. Robertson takes us through the familiar history of Lizzie Borden, the murders of her father and stepmother, the culture of the times and town, the trial and the aftermath but has uncovered tidbits of information which she cleverly adds to each factoid that serve to shed a brighter light on so many heretofore incongruities. There is even a small, previously unpublished photo of the older Lizzie. Trust me friends, I’ve read them all and this one blew me away! ~Shannon McKeown~
What Is Given From The Heart by Patricia C. McKissack; illustrated by April Harrison
When Reverend Dennis announces that items are needed for the love boxes that will be delivered to needy families in the community, James Otis and his Mama decide to contribute. They barely have enough themselves, but James Otis is determined to think of something to give to a little girl whose family has lost everything in a fire. But does James Otis have anything that will help make up for everything that Sarah has lost? The mixed-media illustrations are the perfect complement to the text of McKissack’s last picture book. ~Sue Daniels~
A helpful book for those people who need a little encouragement in decluttering projects. She describes areas to ponder: why bother with outer order? -- Make choices -- Create order -- Know yourself - and others -- Cultivate helpful habits -- Add beauty. Short passages on each page make this an easy and thought provoking read. Recommended to those seeking both more order and calm. ~Paulette Brooks~
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
An excellent new release for fans of British & Irish history and books like Killers of the Flower Moon. Blending true crime and history, the author mines the volatile period in Northern Ireland known as The Troubles, which dated from the late 1960s to 1998 (though it still rages if you ask some people). At its core was the issue of a united Ireland (Northern Ireland was at the time, and still is, a part of the United Kingdom). Pitting Protestants vs. Catholics, and Republicans vs. Loyalists, Keefe melds a broad overview of the conflict with memorable characters and a central mystery: what happened to Jean McConville? ~Noah Weckwerth~
Joleen, a child of alcoholic parents who died just before she finished high school, has now become a well-respected wife and mother of two. Her husband, Michael, is a lawyer who has recently lost his father and partner in their law firm. Joleen is a member of the National Guard and a Blackhawk helicopter pilot. Both partners have a very strong sense of honor and responsibility, but those ideals sometimes clash leading to marital strife. Suddenly the war in Iraq interrupts their life and Joleen is sent overseas. While not often reading about women and their role in combat/war situations this book shows the effects of war on the entire family as well as the soldier involved. Well narrated and deeply moving. ~Sharon Passick~
By The [Library] Book Interview with EGPL Librarian Sharon Long
What books are on your nightstand?
I currently only have two books on my nightstand, “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg and “Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann. I typically do not leave books on my nightstand. The chest at the foot of the bed is another story. There I have “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance (my next book club book), “Raymie Nightingale” and “Louisiana’s Way Home” by Kate DiCamillo, “Kitchens of the Great Midwest” by J. Ryan Stradal, “Get Out of My Life: But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?” By Anthony E. Wolf, “Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear” by Kim Brooks, “Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control” by Heather Forbes (I’m hoping that these parenting books will help decode my teenagers), “Keto in an Instant” by Stacy Crawford, “Dinner in an Instant” by Melissa Clark (my instant pot is my new obsession), “Whiskey in a Teacup” by Reese Witherspoon, “Game of Stars” by Sayatani Dasgupta and “Beartown” by Fredrik Backman.
Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?
I enjoy everything except thrillers/horror stories and science fiction. The former stresses me out too much and the latter can’t hold my interest. Otherwise, I greatly enjoy historical fiction, realistic fiction, mysteries, fantasy, and nonfiction. I read fiction at all age levels: middle readers, young adult and adult. There are some truly brilliant authors at the middle reader level (grades 4-6) such as Kate DiCamillo, Shannon Draper, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Jason Reynolds. I also enjoy verse novels, fiction that is written in prose. It reads like traditional fiction and I am always impressed when authors can develop complex characters and gripping stories with so few words. I avoid graphic novels with the exception of those by Raina Telgemeier and Svetlana Chmakova. I also enjoy reading cookbooks of all types. I like biographies/memoirs especially those with a good dose of humor. I select nonfiction based on the presence of compelling story rather than the particular subject matter. I found “Evicted”, a book about socio-economic barriers in Milwaukee just as compelling as “Boys in the Boat” the story of the U.S crew team who won a gold medal in the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin.
What is the best book you ever received as a gift?
When I was 11 years old, my mother gave me a copy of Corrie ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place”. I still remember her handing me the book and telling me she thought I might find it “interesting”. My Mom was not an avid reader like I was, which made the gift all the more special. I was captivated. I kept thinking “this is real” as I read it. It was the first non-fiction book I read that was not a textbook. I re-read it countless times. At the time, I did not appreciate how Corrie ten Boom’s story showed me true resiliency and hope. I just knew I was in awe of her strength and survival. When she died a few years later I felt as though I lost a family member.
High school senior, Misha, thinks she has played the college admission game well. She attends a prestigious east coast prep school on scholarship because her mom can’t afford the tuition, and has knocked herself out checking all the right boxes: excellent grades, high test scores, volunteering, clubs, leadership, and so on. However, she is devastated and humiliated when she is rejected by every school she has applied to. She has somehow fallen short of everyone’s expectations and she doesn’t know what to do. As she scrambles to come up with a solution, Misha discovers that the rejections may not be her fault and there is a larger conspiracy afoot. But can she prove it? This is an engaging mystery story but it is also thought provoking to see Misha consider whether she would have done high school differently if she hadn’t been so focused on winning the college admissions game in the first place. Recommended for ages 15 and up. ~Sue Daniels~
For a truly transcendent experience of choral music, this new collection by contemporary American composer Morten Lauridsen is a must. His is a mystical musical language of the heart, recognizable in the song cycle Les Chanson des Rose from the poems of Maria Rilke, a perfect match to the disjointed poetry of unimaginable grief (Prayer, Dana Gioia ), and the ideal companion to the comforting wistfulness of Sure on this Shining Night from the poem by James Agee. The recording itself is superbly engineered, showcasing the unique and multi-layered signature Lauridsen sound without the usual muddying found in most complicated recordings. Listen to this one and treat your soul to beauty. ~Shannon McKeown~
H is for Hawk: a new chapter (DVD documentary)
The 2014 memoir by Helen Macdonald titled H is for Hawk tells the story of a grieving daughter who finds solace in training a goshawk. This BBC documentary catches up with Helen Macdonald who is now able to follow a goshawk family in the wild as well as training a new raptor. It is wonderful to hear the author reflect on her experiences as a falconer and see her in the beautiful English countryside. ~Paulette Brooks~
The Current by Tim Johnston
This is a “keeps you up reading past your bedtime” kind of book. It’s mysterious, and yet equally literary. When Audrey and Caroline’s car plunges into an icy Iowa river, it’s no simple accident. Furthermore it bears eerie similarities to a case from 10 years prior that shattered lives across a small Minnesota town. With only Audrey left to pick up the pieces, will she be able to solve the puzzle and bring closure to herself and others? This is a beautiful rumination on love and grief wrapped in a thrilling package. Evocative descriptions of setting are an added bonus. ~Noah Weckwerth~
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (YA fiction)
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Miramax Films 2009 (DVD)
World War II historical fiction is a very popular genre. What sets this book apart from others is that it is told from the point of view of a young German boy, Bruno, whose father is a Commandant in the German Military. Bruno is your typical 9 year old boy: he believes his older sister is “a hopeless case” and wants nothing more than to play with his friends and go exploring. Everything changes when his father is promoted and the family must leave their posh Berlin home and move to a drab house next to a place Bruno calls “Out-With” (actually Auschwitz). The house is much smaller, there are no other children to play with and Bruno is confined to the yard, leaving very little opportunity for exploring. Curiosity gets the best of Bruno and he eventually does sneak away for proper exploring. This is when he meets another boy sitting on the other side of a fence. Bruno is happy to have finally met someone who he believes will be his friend and sets out to visit him as much as possible. Bruno’s innocence and curiosity lead to a dramatic conclusion. Despite being narrated by a young boy, this book is as formidable as any other World War II novel. The movie is true to the book and does not take on “creative freedom” that often occurs when bringing a book to the big screen. However, I did find that the movie did not convey Bruno’s naivety as well as the book. Nonetheless, it is still a powerful movie that gives the right amount of gravitas to the dramatic climax, perhaps even more so than the book. ~Sharon Long~
The Accountant (DVD)
Liam Neeson ain’t got nothing on Christian Wolff. Let’s just say he’s an autistic math savant with…a particular set of skills. This 2016 action puzzler is by no means a perfect film, but it’s a good watch, buoyed by fine performances from Ben Affleck and a stellar ensemble, and a plot that unravels slowly and in a way that makes you go “Oh my gosh, now it all makes sense!” ~Noah Weckwerth~
By The [Library] Book Interview with EGPL Library Assistant Nancy Arevalo
What books are on your nightstand?
My bedside table doesn't hold enough books, so instead, various piles of books tend to collect at the end of my dining room table. First, you'll find picture books, titles I've ordered and plan to ship to my granddaughters after reading them myself. A new novel I just finished (soon to leave the pile) is "The Girl They Left Behind" by Roxanne Veletzos, based on her mother's experience in WWII Romania. Also, “Finding Dorothy” by Elizabeth Letts and"Marilla of Green Gables" by Sarah McCoy.
What is the last book you recommended to a member of your family?
The last book I recommended is, "The Enchanted Hour: the Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction" by Meghan Gurdon Cox. The author has been the Wall Street Journal's children's book reviewer since 2005. She brings fresh perspective to the art of reading aloud and the impact it can have on people of all ages, from "the nursery to the nursing home," as she titles one chapter. In "What reading to children does to their brains," she shares how neurologists and pediatricians are using MRI imaging to view the real time effects of being read to. "When we read to other people, we show them that they matter to us, that we want to expand time and attention and energy in order to bring them something good." I recommended "The Enchanted Hour" to two of my kids who already read to their toddlers, reminding them of all the good they are doing when they invest that time.
What kind of reader were you as a child?
I loved books, maybe because I was read to a lot. Hearing stories during meals was normal, and my elementary school was close enough so that my siblings and I would walk home for lunch and be read to while we ate. My mother would tell us that if we stopped eating, she would stop reading (in order to get us to eat quick and run back to school before the bell rang.) Of course, she enjoyed the books as much as we did. Our neighborhood library was close to the middle school, so I could stop there as I walked home. On Saturdays, I'd ask to be dropped off at Madison's Central Library for the morning when my family did errands downtown. I made sure I was never without a book.
Woof: A Love Story by Sarah Weeks illustrated by Holly Berry
A pooch who is usually content to spend his time doing “dog things” such as running and growling and rolling around suddenly finds his whole world upended when a beautiful white cat appears next door; a cat with a nose “as pink as a cake-frosting rose.” Their initial inability to communicate slows the budding romance until a shiny brass object is found that allows them to understand each other through its magical sound. Cleverly illustrated with colorful collage prints, this funny Valentine to the power of love will both delight and warm the hearts of cat and/or dog people of all ages. ~Shannon McKeown~
Dear Mrs. Bird by A. J. Pearce (audio book)
Emmeline Lake has ambitions of becoming a Lady War Correspondent and leaps to reply to an ad in The London Evening Chronicle. The interview doesn't exactly cover what her job description will be. No matter. But her on the first day of the job, she discovers she has been hired to assist Mrs. Henrietta Bird, the advice columnist for a women's publication. Although disappointed, she becomes intrigued with the letters from readers who ask for advice, especially the "Unpleasant" ones which she is instructed to deposit in the trash bin. Emmeline is determined to find ways to help the war effort, both on the job and as a volunteer at the firehouse call center. A snapshot of Home-front courage during the Blitz, I enjoyed the humor, warmth and bravery displayed by Emmy and her friends. ~Nancy Arevalo~
The American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards for 2019 were named at the end of January. Here are some of the winners, in case you haven’t caught up with them yet.
The Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature was awarded to The Poet X: a novel by Elizabeth Acevedo. This novel in verse tells the story of Xiomara Batista, a Dominican girl from Harlem, who finds that slam poetry gives her a way to express her feelings about everything that is going on in her life. The Poet X became a front-runner early on because of the strength of the main character and the many different issues that are tackled through her poetic words.
The Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children went to Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina. It’s a coming-of-age tale in which sixth grader Merci is juggling new challenges including a bossy bully at school and the failing health of her beloved grandfather. Medina is known as an author who portrays the experiences of Latinx girls well.
The Caldecott Medal is for the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. This year, it was awarded to Sophie Blackall who illustrated and wrote the book Hello Lighthouse which chronicles the life of a lighthouse, through fair weather and storms, highlighting the final family to live and work there. Blackall’s detailed ink and watercolor illustrations give the book a charming, old-fashioned feel. ~Sue Daniels~
I always feel like life isn’t so bad when I read a Peter Mayle book. He looks at society and people in such an amusing way. Sadly, this book is the last reminder of that particular pleasure, since Mr. Mayle died in January 2018. In 21 short chapters, Mayle describes early days of house hunting, spectacular scenery of southern France, and recommends favorite restaurants and cafes. These are all familiar themes to Mayle fans, but enjoyable nonetheless. He is uniquely qualified to describe French habits, tourists’ complaints, the practice of truffle-hunting, the pleasure of wine, the beauty of lavender fields, and curiosities of village life. Describing the gesticulations common to French conversation, he says: “To watch fifty or more highly animated French people talking at once is like watching a tai chi class on stimulants.” This lovely little book also includes charming photographs taken by Mayle’s wife Jennie. ~Sarah Muench~
RBG tells the story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life and her leading role in breaking down gender barriers. The film spans her childhood, her legal career including her own experiences with gender discrimination, and ultimately her impact as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, both on and off the bench. Viewers learn that Justice Ginsburg’s reserved nature, no-nonsense approach and strong work ethic have been present since her childhood. Her story is told from interviews with Justice Ginsburg, her children, her granddaughter, former colleagues, friends and even politicians whose feathers she ruffled. Interspersed throughout the film are excerpts from her arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in support of gender equality, her confirmation hearing following her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court and footage of speaking engagements often including her late husband Martin (Marty) Ginsburg. Equal time is given to her 56 year marriage with Marty, a marriage filled with love and mutual respect. It is this balance between personal life and legal career that makes this documentary worthy of its Oscar nomination. ~Sharon Long~
By The [Library] Book Interview with EGPL Librarian Paulette Brooks
What books are on your nightstand?
There is quite an eclectic stack of books currently on my nightstand including Sister Pie (a recipe book), Women Rowing North: Navigating life’s currents and flourishing as we age by Mary Bray Pipher, The Emissary - a dystopian novel by Japanese author Yoko Tawada (Winner of 2018 National Book Award in Translated Literature), Deeper Places:Experiencing God in the Psalms by Australian musician Matthew Jacoby. My Kindle is also on my nightstand and contains mostly Advanced Reading Copies of books coming out soon. I’m really excited about a new memoir (to be published in May) by Fredrik Backman titled Things My Son Needs to Know about the World My little MP3 player is nearby, so I’ll just mention that I am enjoying listening to bestseller novel Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and I can’t say enough good things about the recently released audio version of The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo (narrated by the author).
You are organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
Due to the early influences in sparking my imagination as a young reader, I would love to invite C.S. Lewis (I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in Grade 6 – an amazing introduction to fantasy literature), Agatha Christie (I still remember the first of her novels I discovered while in high school - The Murder of Roger Ackroyd), and Ray Bradbury (his short story All Summer in a Day just blew me away in Grade 7) to say thank you.
What kind of stories are you drawn to?
I love really good prose that explores the human condition, creates tension between good and evil resulting in redemption. Humor goes a long way in my book. I also demand complicated and flawed characters who though quirky also possess an innate sensibility that shows how kindness goes a long way to defeating the darkness in this world. Virgil Wander by Leif Enger is a really good example of a recent satisfying read.
The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile
For anyone looking for fresh insight into their own personality or that of a loved one, this book is for you. I read it as an introduction to the personality type system called the Enneagram and found it to be fascinating. The authors take individual chapters to flesh out descriptions of each of the nine personality types, using personal stories and examples which allow the reader to relate to and, perhaps, identify with one type over the others. This book can be a helpful tool for self-discovery and a means to grow in empathy for others in your life. ~Nancy Arevalo~
The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships by Suzanne Stabile
With a basic understanding of the Enneagram personality types, the next question is: how does your approach to life affect your relationships? The author specifically looks at relational traits of each type and how that type tends to interact with each other Enneagram type. With warmth and humor, the author effectively illustrates how the Enneagram can tell us who we are and who we can be in relationship with others. ~Nancy Arevalo~
Gmorning, Gnight!: little pep talks for me & you by Lin-Manuel Miranda, illustrated by Jonny Sun
From the composer and creator of the hit musical Hamilton comes a collection of original posts for morning and evening consideration. Words of encouragement, comfort, and motivation for anyone who needs a great way to start and end their day! ~Paulette Brooks~
If you are a fan of classic British who-done-its, this is the title for you. With homage to Agatha Christie and all the other great mystery writers Horowitz pulls you into a fascinating tale. First you get editor Susan Ryeland settling down to read best-selling crime writer Alan Conway’s latest work of his detective Atticus Pund. Even though the author has some very troubling behaviors Susan must put up with them if she wants to keep her job. There is a murder at Pye Hall, more dead bodies, many suspects, but a feeling there is more to the story. And there is … Listen and enjoy. ~Sharon Passick~
Wait For Your Laugh (DVD)
For over half a century we’ve known her as the perennially single working girl who was just one of the guys on the Dick Van Dyke Show but decades before that Rose Marie was a beloved child star of the vaudeville and radio eras who grew into one of the most popular singers and comediennes of all time. Once known as “the little girl with the adult voice” Rose Marie began a career at age 4 that spanned 9 decades until her death at age 94 a year ago. Full of history and behind the scenes tidbits and reminisces by familiar stars, this wonderful documentary is a must for any television and entertainment fan. ~Shannon McKeown~
In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien
This work is from 1994, and it’s still a masterpiece. In fact, it’s one of my favorites, ever. There is so much to unpack inside: the mystery central to the story, the psyches of its principal characters, a gorgeous, unforgiving setting, the horrors of Mai Lai, and more. There’s a reason it's frequently used in college literature classes and is a perfect book club pick. The writing is something past beautiful: it’s alive, not a sentence is wasted, its structure is compelling, there are so many questions. It’s not a pleasant book in the least, but it’s one you’ll want to pick up and re-read every couple of years, just to think about it some more. ~Noah Weckwerth~
They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki
Jillian Tamaki has created a visually stunning portrayal of a young girl’s observations about colors in her world. Vivid pictures depict the child’s reflections on obvious colors (the ocean is blue) and the not so obvious colors (but it becomes “clear as glass” once you put it in your hand). Interwoven in her observations is the subtle impact colors have on our emotions; feeding our imagination, damping our spirit or providing a sense of comfort. This journey through colors is well worth the trip for all ages and begs the question shouldn’t we all take the time to examine the colors in our lives? ~Sharon Long~
Tea with the Dames (DVD)
Awarded with the title of Dame for services to drama by the British monarchy, Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Eileen Atkins, and Dame Joan Plowright are among the most celebrated actresses of the time, with scores of iconic performances, decades of wisdom, and innumerable awards between them. They are also longtime friends who invite viewers to join them for a weekend in the country as they catch up with one another, reminisce, and share their candid, delightfully irreverent thoughts on everything from art to aging to love to a life lived in the spotlight. Delightful to watch! ~Paulette Brooks~
By The [Library] Book Interview with EGPL Youth Librarian Sue Daniels
What books are on your nightstand?
The books currently sitting on my nightstand include two books for a mock awards discussion coming up soon: a Printz (YA) contender called Sadie by Courtney Summers and a possible Newbery (children) book by Kate DiCamillo called Louisiana’s Way. The two adult books on my shelf are the most recent entries in two of my favorite series: Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny, and To Die But Once by Jacqueline Winspear (a Maisie Dobbs novel).
What kind of reader were you as a child?
I was not particularly interested in reading at an early age. Even though I grew up in a book-rich environment, I wasn’t an early reader and I didn’t like sitting still long enough to work at reading a book. However, my school librarian took me under her wing and steered me toward fabulous books that I couldn’t get enough of. As a result, I became an enthusiastic reader, and ultimately, a children’s librarian!
What’s your favorite thing to read?
Agatha Christie hooked me on mystery novels when I was a teen. At the time, I liked the way her stories focused on plot and didn’t spend a lot of time on character development. Now, while I still love mysteries, I prefer that they also have engaging characters with stories of their own.