Weaving together three subplots from different times, Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is the story of an author’s life and events he has experienced over an interval of several years. One strand involves his present day life on an unnamed Caribbean island and the tolls of living in a drunken blur. Another storyline details his memories of his father’s battle with cancer. The third plotline focuses on the woman he loves and their past relationship. This book was an enjoyable read, interesting from the beginning. Currie’s eclectic style works well as he bounces from one thought to the next. I recommend this book to readers looking for a bit of adventure and constant entertainment.
Kate is struggling with a commitment to marriage with her beau, Rowan, even after four years of dating. For the first time in her life, she also knows that she won’t fully love until she confronts her past. It’s time to act. Told in alternating time periods, we find that from the tender age of fourteen, Kate and Jack fell in love, but never fell out. Today, Kate fears that her heart may still belong to Jack, the man who fathered their child, a little girl she gave up for adoption thirteen years ago. When the mistakes have been made, and the running is over, it’s time to face the truth. Can she travel to the place where it all began, to the one who shares her secret? Can the lost ever be found?
And Then I Found You gives new life to the phrase “inspired by a true story.” Patti bases her novel on a period in her family’s life and exposes the price of a selfless act.
Keri Mills, Young Adult Librarian
I had to laugh when I found out that May is National Hamburger Month. But, when you think about the role the hamburger has played in American culture and cuisine, maybe it should be recognized on the calendar. If you are interested in knowing more about the hamburger and its humble beginnings, the library has a couple of books on burger history.
“Hamburger Heaven” by Jeffrey Tennyson is a good one to get you started. This book details the beginnings of the hamburger steak from the Tartars of the 13th century, its immigration to the United States via Hamburg, Germany, and the Americans who claim to be the first to put the steak between two pieces of bread. Then, there is a fascinating look at the rise of burger restaurants and the famous burger battles that ensued. What also makes the book so enjoyable, is its numerous photographs of early restaurants, advertisements and burger memorabilia (yes, there really is burger memorabilia).
If you are not that into burger history, and would just like to eat some hamburgers, the library has plenty of cookbooks to choose from. One of my recent favorites is “Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries, and Shakes.” Flay has created a cookbook that is great for beginners and burger experts alike. The first chapter offers advice for choosing the right meats, cheeses, buns, cookware, and the best way to cook your burgers. Subsequent chapters offer burger recipes galore, many illustrated with full-page color photographs. After you’ve mastered the burger, try one of Flay’s recipes for fries, condiments, or milkshakes. What washes down a burger better than a lemon meringue pie milkshake or a dark chocolate milkshake with coconut cream?
You could also try “The Book of Burger” by Rachel Ray. With over 200 recipes, there are plenty of burgers to choose from. And, as usual, Ray makes her recipes very accessible for the average home cook. Her book includes recipes for beef, lamb, pork, veggie, chicken, turkey, and seafood burgers, not to mention fries and dipping sauces. There is also a selection of favorite burger recipes from other celebrity chefs. Many of the recipes are kid friendly, as well. If macaroni is a staple at your house, try the Chili Mac ‘N’ Cheese Burgers.
“Raichlen’s Indoor! Grilling” by Steven Raichlen is the cookbook for those who do not have an outdoor grill or for those who crave a burger in any kind of weather. Although this book does not contain a huge assortment of burger recipes, each recipe it does contain is fairly detailed. And, every burger recipe contains specific instructions for cooking on five different types of indoor grills: contact grills, grill pans, built-in grills, freestanding grills, and even fireplace grills. There are also chapters on sides, veggies, and desserts. Pound Cake S’mores, anyone?
If you are an experienced cook and not easily intimidated in the kitchen, try “Burgers: from Barbecue Ranch Burger to Miso Salmon Burger” by Paul Gayler. This one is definitely not for the average cook. All recipe measurements are in metric, and the majority of the burgers take extensive prep and/or have difficult to find ingredients. Take, for instance, the Lamb Burger Briks, which are wrapped in spring roll pastry dough and then deep fried. If you are up for a challenge, you can even try pheasant, ostrich, or swordfish burgers.
“Grilling Vegan Style” by John Schlimm is perfect for the vegetarians or vegans in your life. The first couple chapters go over the basics of grilling and the different types of vegan foods and products that are available. There is one chapter devoted to burgers, plus several others on appetizers, marinades, sides, and various grilled dishes. There is even an entire chapter devoted to the perfect drinks to go with your burgers or other grilling masterpieces.
If this has gotten you in the mood for a good burger, come check out one of these or our many other cookbooks from the library today!
Caroline Paul was recovering from the crash of her small experimental plane. She was depressed, in a daze from painkillers and thought things couldn’t get worse. But her beloved cat, Tibby, disappeared. She and her partner, illustrator Wendy McNaughton, mourned his loss. After five weeks of calling his name, placing flyers, consulting a psychic,Tibby waltzed back into their lives, fat and healthy. His owners were overjoyed, but they were mystified.Tibby refused to eat and disappeared for a time every day. Where had their sweet anxious cat been and where is he going? This amusing and poignant memoir, Lost Cat, follows their search. Using a GPS unit and a kitty-camera, they tracked his movements around their San Francisco neighborhood. In the process, they managed to cure Caroline’s depression, meet their neighbors and finally figured out where the adventurous Tibby had been.
This story set in New York and Boston during World War II, centers on Dr. Hatcher’s envolvment with immigrants coming into the United States. Lydia Eldredge living in Boston with her son Nicky, was surprised when Dr. Micah Hatcher showed up on her Father’s doorstep. Why would her father summon Dr. Hatcher to Boston with the accusation of being Nicky’s father? Micah, had been even more surprised when he had received the letter from Mr. Eldredge, proclaiming him to be his grandson’s father. Micah and Lydia had worked together at the Schofield Station Hospital, when she had hurriedly left Oahu because of a “mysterious emergency” he hadn’t thought much about, but now he knew.
When Micah met Nicky, the little boy captured his heart. Then when Lydia explained the dilemma they faced, he was even more drawn into the Eldredge’s lives to help find safety for the little boy. But his responsibilities with the immigrants in New York, kept him from being available when the Eldredge’s needed him most. Kim Vogel Sawyer has once again touch my heart with her inspiring story in Sweet Sanctuary. It is another book you won’t want to put down.
For much of his life, Nathan Steen has carried 6 small red stones in his pocket each day, transferring them one at a time from one pocket to the other as he does a good deed and hoping that at the end of the day he has moved all 6 stones. When he stops to help a stranded motorist, Nathan is killed in a tragic accident. As his family copes with grief and heartbreak, Nathan’s wife Halley discovers emails in her husband’s work email sent by a woman from his past. As Halley and her son Ty struggle with their anger and disappointment, daughter Alice maintains her faith in the goodness of her father. As each character tells their story from their perspective, secrets and lies are discovered and Nathan’s motivations are revealed. Many topics are touched upon by the characters, including bullying and abuse. The One Good Thing is a story that illustrates the strength of families, of providing a good example to our children and of the repercussions of the choices that we all make every day–a touching and inspirational portrait of the lasting effects of kindness.
I recently had a perfect moment. How often do we get to say that? As I was riding my bike down linear park surrounded by my family, with the sun on my face, I wished I could capture the moment, to acknowledge the wonder of it. I think that’s what poetry does – it takes the “moments” of life, whether every-day or marked occasion, and ponders them. Poetry helps us to step away from the busyness of our lives and consider the essence of “what it’s all about.”
April is National Poetry Month and there is poetry in the air. Some of us were forced to read poetry in school (although we secretly loved it) but then wandered away. If you’ve lost touch with your poetic side, there are some fun web sites that enable you to explore with abandon. The Poetry Foundation has a vast collection of poetry, both classic and new. My favorite part is their video series Poetry Everywhere, which features poems read out-loud, most by the poets themselves. The Academy of American Poets lists the most popular poets and poems, and will even email a Poem-A-Day to you. I especially love the Poems for Every Occasion page which has you covered for everything from a break-up to a summer’s day.
If you’re ready to dive in a little deeper, we can help you out at the library with some collections of favorite poems. Garrison Keillor, a promoter of poetry on his shows “A Prairie Home Companion” and “Writer’s Almanac,” has created collections of his favorites, all titles beginning with Good Poems. Filled with classics as well as contemporary poems, these collections are meant for ordinary people to enjoy. Caroline Kennedy was raised by a great lover of poetry and her first collection The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis honored that early influence. She has gone on to create two collections for children, Poems to Learn by Heart and A Family of Poems and also a collection for women called She Walks in Beauty. She talks about her reasons for compiling these poems: “When you’re going through something, whether it’s a wonderful thing like having a child or a sad thing like losing somebody, you often feel like ‘Oh My God, I’m so overwhelmed; I’m dealing with this huge thing on my own.’ In fact, poetry’s a nice reminder that, no, everybody goes through it. These are universal experiences.”
From there, poetry has a wealth of material to explore. You can start with local poets like Jonathan Holden, Elizabeth Dodd, or Ann Carter or revisit the classics with Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Langston Hughes. You might enjoy some of the poet laureates such as Nebraskan Ted Kooser, Rita Dove, or Billy Collins. At Manhattan Public Library, we have a poetry display up for the month of April, but after that you can delve into poetry at call number 811.
The final question is how to best enjoy poetry. You can quietly contemplate the words on the page, but reading it aloud adds greatly to the understanding and pleasure of reading poetry. Find a quiet room or a rooftop (depending on your personality) and savor the words. As we allow poetry to filter into our everyday lives, we see that opportunities exist everywhere that are just screaming for a poem to be read: family events, gathering of friends, worship services. I wonder what a poetry flash mob might look like. I have had several great poetry moments, but my favorite was at a Halloween party when a friend read part 3 of The Bells by Edgar Allen Poe. It was creepy and haunting and kept us enraptured with wide eyes. However you experience poetry, recognize it for the beautiful pause in life that it is. As William Hazlitt said, “Poetry is all that is worth remembering in life.”
Charles Lindbergh’s achievements are fairly well known, but his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, is portrayed in The Aviator’s Wife as a woman to be remembered for many reasons. Melanie Benjamin tells the story of Anne Morrow, the first American woman to earn a first-class glider pilot’s license, first woman to win the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal for exploration, and a National Book Award-winning novelist. Her marriage to Charles was difficult as his fame caused their life to be in the public’s eye. The terrible loss of their first little boy in a kidnapping added to their notoriety and heartache. Charles extremely disciplined manner and driven nature caused relationship issues with Anne and their children. Anne’s life comes alive for reader’s as we see her devotion to this celebrity husband and the problems that result.
Ghostman is the first novel for author Roger Hobbs, and he is off to an amazing start! This riveting crime novel takes place in the shadowy underworld of Atlantic City. The main character–sometimes called Jack–is a criminal who lives off the grid, hiding behind disguises, with no one who knows his real identity and with only a few people able to contact him. One of those is Marcus, a man who orchestrates robberies involving millions of dollars. Jack is indebted to Marcus for a bungled robbery several years before, and Marcus asks Jack to go to Atlantic City and recover millions of dollars stolen in another botched robbery of a casino. Jack must contend with a FBI investigation and a local drug lord, and must rely on all of his abilities to survive this case. The Atlantic City story alternates with Jack’s memory of the robbery in Kuala Lumpur that went awry. This is a riveting, fast-paced, gritty novel with a unique, complex main character and a plot filled with twists and turns.
The Last Chance to See is a thought-provoking, interesting and at times disheartening series that investigates the condition of several species of endangered animals. Traveling around the globe, Stephen Fry and zoologist and photographer Mark Carwardine search for some of the rarest creatures on the planet in an attempt to learn how species are faring in a world where humans are impacting the environment in many ways. Learn if Amazon manatees, white rhinos, Komodo dragons and others are able to adapt and survive or if they are of the edge of extinction. Not only do we see the animals, but the park rangers, biologists, citizens and volunteers who are dedicated to saving these animals and their habitats. This is an informative and fascinating series with entertaining and enthusiastic hosts, willing to travel in uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous circumstances to bring us the extraordinary stories of these animals and the humans committed to saving them.
Susan Withee, Adult Services Department Manager
A while back I wrote about “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest” a bestselling book by Dan Buettner, an explorer, scientist, and National Geographic Fellow. The book grew out of a cover story he wrote for National Geographic and from studies on health and longevity done in collaboration with the National Institute on Aging. Traveling to several places around the world where groups of people had been documented to live the longest, Buettner attempted to discover and distill down the essential elements of the path to vigor, long life, and health.
Recently, I read Buettner’s follow-up book, “Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way,” and, like his previous book, I found it engaging, thought-provoking, and very enjoyable – part travelogue, part sociological study, part self-help guide.. Using as his guide the King of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index and the World Database of Happiness from the Netherlands’ Erasmus University, Buettner traveled to some of the happiest places on earth – countries, regions, cities, and villages – and tried to discover the secrets of their success. The following, according to Buettner, are some of the building blocks for happier individuals and communities.
More than any other factor, where people live affects their level of happiness. Places with economic freedom, high employment, tolerance of diversity, greater status equality, a fair legal system, and a strong democratic process provide people with security and purpose. People are happiest in neighborhoods that provide quiet and safe surroundings, that offer proximity to services, churches, shops, and culture, and that are walkable and bikeable, and they are happiest in communities that have plenty of parks and natural spaces, vibrant city centers, good public transportation, and lots of opportunities for social interaction. Limiting retail shopping hours and limiting the work week afford people time and energy for more beneficial pursuits and more social interaction, both big happiness factors in their own right. Support for the arts, opportunities for personal growth and learning at all ages, and plenty of nearby locations for contact with nature also increase emotional well-being.
In addition to living in a place with economic freedom and high employment, it’s fundamental to personal happiness to find a job that is optimally challenging, draws on one’s natural talents, feeds their passions, and provides for contact with friendly co-workers, while still leaving time away from work to spend on personal interests and family relationships. The happiest people limit their work week to 40 hours (or even work part-time), avoid long commutes, take their vacations, and socialize with colleagues.
The happiest communities are the most connected and those which offer plenty of opportunities for social interaction, whether formally in organizations or clubs or informally in common spaces like parks and public gathering places. The happiest people seek out positive, trustworthy, and supportive friends, are connected to a faith or spiritual practice and, no surprise, have a long-term legally-committed relationship with a spouse or partner.
The happiest people have sufficient money to meet their basic needs and feel secure, but they don’t overly aspire to great wealth and don’t dedicate most of their energy and time to acquiring it. They spend carefully and save automatically, and have less debt. They shop less, have less stuff, and have little preoccupation with the latest consumer products. They invest instead in experiences, by spending money on travel, activities with family or friends, hobbies or lessons.
Most of the world’s happiest people don’t generally have large or luxurious homes. Instead, most of them live in houses that range anywhere from modest to minimal, but their homes are places that foster a sense of well-being and contentment, that create space to engage in activities and interests and to gather with family and friends. They serve as a refuge and often have areas, however small, set aside for spiritual practice and meditation.
There were a lot of takeaways in “Thrive,” just as I found there were in “The Blue Zones,” and much to inspire and instruct. And food for thought at a national, community, and personal level.
Garden expert, Joel Karsten has experimented for years with the unique method of gardening right in straw bales. Need a raised bed to save your back? Try straw bales. Joel has discovered that straw bales allow you to raise wonderful vegetables in record time with few weeds. He has experimented and perfected this innovative method of conditioning straw bales with water and fertilizer for twelve days prior to planting directly into straw bales. Less expensive, small transplants can be directly placed into the extra warmth of these “cooked” bales with quick growing results. Seeds can be planted into a shallow layer of planting mix to germinate quickly. Discover how to use vertical gardening tricks with straw bales and how to keep pests away.This highly detailed and illustrated garden book answers every question, and has plenty of how-to’s so you will succeed with straw bales.
In the 1890′s, Nellie Bly was a reporter for the New York World. An ambitious reporter, Bly covered sensational news stories, even having herself admitted to a mental hospital in order to report on the conditions inside. Determined to find a story to capture the imagination of the city, Bly proposed a trip around the world, planned in order to beat the Eighty Days journey by the Jules Verne character Phileas Fogg. With the approval of her editor, Joseph Pulitzer, Bly set out from New York to England on November 14, 1889. The editor of the Cosmopolitan was not to be outdone and set their literary reporter Elizbeth Brisland off on her own journey around the world, but heading in the opposite direction, across the American west and the Pacific. This is a fascinating look into the journeys of the two women who are both defying gender stereotypes, the adventures they experienced and their reactions to their travels. Each woman’s travel was planned to exact hours and minutes in order for them to race around the globe, and the entire nation became riveted by their competition. They viewed the world very differently and the insights into their personalities are fascinating, as are the countries and cities that they travel through. Author Goodman has filled the book with extensive research about the women and the times they live in. This story provides an absorbing, in-depth and compelling view of two amazing women and of the world at the turn of the century
I know we’ve already reviewed this book, but I think it needs to be revisited. It’s that good. I’ve been told by several people to read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, but I put it off as I always do. I was finally forced to read it and from the first page I was completely absorbed. I have since forced several others to read it and everyone has loved it so far. On the surface it’s a book about a teenager in the future playing video games, but it’s also a coming-of-age story, action-adventure, a little bit romance, a novel about the human condition. This is just a great story, so I’m glad it’s been picked as the K-State Common Book for 2013. We’ll be partnering with them so look out for some opportunities to explore the book further in the fall. I can’t wait to hear what you think about it!
Six by Six: Six Skills Kids Should Learn by Age Six
By Jennifer Adams, Children’s Services Manager
Everyone knows that libraries have storytimes so young children can hear good stories read aloud. People who have attended storytimes know that, in addition to stories, children will learn action rhymes, songs and even dance moves. It is all great fun and leads to enjoyment of books and the library. That alone may be reason enough to present ten storytimes or more each week at our library, but there is actually more to it than that.
Public libraries have a strong connection to early childhood education and “early literacy,” a term that does not mean learning to read early, but instead refers to the skills children master in preparation for learning to read when they are older. It begins with babies – hearing language spoken and sung, touching our mouths as we speak, and beginning to recognize shapes and images. Babies love books. They love to look at them, hear the words, chew on them, rip their pages. Books are full of wonderment! A father in the library recently told me he got a kick out of his daughter, who is just a few months old, because she is such a book critic. He can open the page of a new board book to her laughter or her cries – she shares her opinions openly. But we know we need to be reading to our young children, and talking to them and playing with them. How do these simple exercises translate into reading success?
The American Library Association (ALA) did extensive research into this topic several years ago and launched a nationwide program for librarians called “Every Child Ready to Read.” The research showed six early literacy skills that were key to children’s ability to learn to read when they got to school. Not surprisingly, many of these skills have been a part of storytimes for ages. Knowing the research, terminology and results associated with specific skills has helped us hone in on the activities that are best for early literacy. Additionally, we can easily pass this knowledge on to parents who attend our programs so their efforts at home are reinforced and encouraged.
Johnson County Public Library took ALA’s somewhat wordy program and transformed it into a fun, user-friendly version they called “6 By 6” – six skills kids need to know by the time they are ready to read around the age of six. The State Library of Kansas adopted the 6 By 6 program, making it accessible to every library in the state (http://6by6.mykansaslibrary.org).
The six skills are:
1. Have Fun with Books (print motivation)
2. Notice Print All Around You (print awareness)
3. Talk, Talk, Talk (vocabulary)
4. Look for Letters Everywhere (letter knowledge)
5. Tell Stories about Everything (narrative skills)
6. Take Time to Rhyme, Sing & Play Word Games (phonological awareness)
In addition to weekly storytimes, we have been incorporating early literacy skills into fun 6 By 6 activity stations available in the children’s room all the time. Our 6 By 6 stations include games, puzzles, felt boards and dress-up items that revolve around a picture book.
This month features “The Gruffalo” by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. In the rhyming text, we follow a brave mouse who outsmarts all the animals in the forest who would like to eat him by telling them he is off to have dinner with his friend, the gruffalo, a terrifying monster the mouse makes up as he goes. Much to his surprise, the mouse does indeed meet a strange beast that matches all his frightening descriptions. But once again, the tiny mouse is able to outwit the gruffalo and all the other critters. Although this book is more than 10 years old, it has remained popular with a sequel, “The Gruffalo’s Child,” and a short, award-winning animated film.
Now you can visit the library with your child or grandchild to have some fun with this entertaining story. Read the book together on one of our cozy chairs, then use the stuffed gruffalo and other puppets to retell it to each other. Put together a funny Mr. Potato Head monster version with extra eyes, horns and other silly body parts. Use a big magnet board to match words and letters, and pretend to mix up some interesting recipes.
These engaging activities will be available in the children’s room through May. Librarians change the book and activities every two months, coming up with new and creative ways for children to explore language and stories.