MEET YASMIN by Saadia Faruqi & Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed

Youth activist Marley Dias was inspired to begin her #1000BlackGirlBooks after being assigned yet another book about “a white boy and his dog.”

To be fair, many of those books are excellent. Rather, her frustration was centered around her inability to find (or be assigned) books with characters who looked like her. Rudine Sims Bishop coined the phrase and idea “windows and mirrors” in literature, an idea backed by research regarding the benefits of seeing yourself in the books you read as well as the benefits of reading about people with different experiences.

On this note, the Children’s Department has a growing collection of books about young Muslim boys and girls and their search for what makes them special.

I have been eagerly anticipating AISHA SAEED’s first picture book, “BILAL COOKS DAAL,” since I first heard about it.

Anoosha Syed’s illustrations are fun, fresh and cartoon-like, an effect inspired by Syed’s animation work.

In “Bilal Cooks Daal,” 6-year-old Bilal invites his friends over to cook daal with his father, but his friends’ questions (“What’s daal taste like? Is it salty?”) and their observations (“It looks funny. It smells funny.”) make him self-conscious about one of his favorite foods. Saeed’s description of what daal is, including how to choose which type to make, reads like poetry, and Syed’s bright illustrations illuminate the excitement and near-sacredness of preparing the dish.

The last page reads: “Daal is tiny. Daal is tough. But with a little time and a lot of patience, it becomes the softest, tastiest, best thing in the whole wide world.”

Saaed and Syed’s book is beautiful and successfully works as both a window and a mirror.

If you’ve never had this dish and want to try it at home, Saeed includes a recipe in the back pages. Saeed’s story acknowledges both the cultural and familial importance of daal, as well as the comfort a good meal can provide. I recommend both the dish and the book.

It’s important to note that diversity in picture books has improved very slightly in recent years.

In 2017, 6% of new children’s books were written by people of color; that figure rose to 7% in 2018 (Lee & Low, 2018). From an observational standpoint, much of the diversity seems to be centered in picture books.

However, books for beginning readers can lack both diverse characters and a compelling story, so I was thrilled to find SAADIA FARUQI and HATEM ALY’s new early reader series, “MEET YASMIN.”

The book, which totals roughly 90 pages, includes four stories, including: “Yasmin the Explorer,” “Yasmin the Painter,” “Yasmin the Builder” and “Yasmin the Fashionista.”

In each story, young Yasmin struggles with discovering her talents. In “Yasmin the Builder,” she doesn’t know what her contribution to her class’s city will be but uses her experiences going on walks with her mom (who, notably, wears a hijab) to create sidewalks and bridges out of tinker toys.

In “Yasmin the Artist,” she struggles with her painting abilities during a school art contest; once she relaxes and ignores expectations, she creates an abstract painting of which she is very proud. “Yasmin the Fashionista” is a fun story about creating a fashion show with her Nani (which the back matter defines as Urdu for your grandmother on your mother’s side).

The last few pages of “Meet Yasmin” introduce Urdu words, facts about Pakistan and a recipe for a yogurt drink called a mango lassi. Hatem Aly, the illustrator of the Newbery Honor book, “The Inquisitor’s Tale,” creates fun and inclusive illustrations reminiscent of Japanese anime characters. “Meet Jasmin” is excellent and available in the Children’s Department’s easy fiction section.

Happy reading!

Find MEET YASMIN and BILAL COOKS DAAL in our catalog.

Anthony Bourdain Remembered

Anthony Bourdain was important to a lot of people. There is no denying that his books and TV shows have influenced people to view life and the world in a different way. Each one of his works set out to paint an honest picture of the world, the people who live there, and the food they consume. As famous as he with talking about issues people faced in their particular country, he also listened to what others had to say.  When he died, it shook the world that he traveled. Anthony Bourdain Remembered was released by CNN as a way to honor his life and pay tribute to a special human being. It features pictures of his travels, as well as small paragraphs written by former colleagues, friends, and the people he met during his adventures.

Because I am not famous enough to be featured in this book, I figured this review could be my way of saying thanks. In high school I did not really know what I wanted to do with life. But when I started watching his shows, I felt an immediate connection. An episode of No Reservations left you feeling like you were along for the trip. For many of us, there is no chance of going where he went. I think he recognized that and made sought out to create a well-rounded an hour at at time.  He taught me to not fall for tourist traps and figure out where the locals go. Because of Anthony Bourdain, I also started eating differently- even made an effort to expand my palate.

I thought this book would be a quick read, but I soon realized that you should take your time with it. Each person who contributed expressed deep gratitude for him and his work. You can find contributions made by Darren Aronofsky, Jacques Pepin, Iggy Pop, Barack Obama, and many more. The photographs show a moment in time of a man who just wanted to move from place to place and experience the world as others do. Most of the pictures show him beside food of some sort. He understood the significance of food and those you eat it with. By eating  a country’s native dishes you get a sense of the history and culture behind it. Anthony Bourdain said “Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food.”

If you are interested in reading some of Anthony Bourdain’s other books, the library has several of them in print and ebook format including Kitchen Confidential, Medium Raw, A Cook’s Tour, and The Nasty Bits. In the near future I will purchase one of his No Reservations DVD collections and donate it to the library. The mark he left on the world should never be forgotten. With Anthony Bourdain Remembered, CNN did an incredible job at providing a snapshot of his life and making sure that his legacy will be remembered.

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“Stonewall: A building, an uprising, a revolution,” by Rob Sanders and Jamey Christoph

Fifty years ago, in the summer of 1969, many significant events in U.S. history happened, among them the Moon landing, Woodstock, and the Manson murders. But the one that is foremost in my mind and in my heart is the Stonewall riots, when LGBTQ+ individuals fought back against legalized harassment and oppression by demonstrating against police raids in New York City.

Although this story has been told many time before, in different formats and styles, author Rob Sanders and illustrator Jamey Christoph delve in again, with their marvelous storybook, “Stonewall: A building, an uprising, a revolution,” found in the Children’s Department of the Joplin Public Library.

Sanders and Christoph’s approach is to highlight the history of both a structure and a liberation movement, in words and images.

Originally built in Greenwich Village in the 1840s as stables to house the horses of wealthy New Yorkers, the two buildings witnessed the eventual flight of the affluent uptown, the arrival of immigrants, and the rise of the Village as a cultural center of New York City before being joined together as first a restaurant and then later a nightclub, the Stonewall Inn.

Through the years, the Village became a haven, “a place where you could be yourself and where being different was welcomed and accepted.” Musicians, writers, and artists of all ages, religions and races brought creative energy to the district. And gay men and women were welcome in the Village, “a home for people who were told that they didn’t fit in or belong.”

In 1967, the Stonewall Inn opened, providing a place for gay men, lesbians, transgender people, drag queens and many other individuals to socialize. But the nightclub was not a completely safe haven: Police raids, fueled by laws that persecuted and prosecuted those who were gay or wore the opposite gender’s clothing, were common, culminating in detainments and arrests.

But in the early-morning hours of June 28, 1969, something changed. Stonewall patrons, angry at and frustrated by the harassment, had had enough. They rose up and resisted the police. For several days, crowds demonstrated and fought back. The Stonewall Uprising had started, and it was the birth of the modern gay-rights movement.

The author and illustrator take a simple, honest approach to this crucial moment in human-rights history. Sanders doesn’t flinch from using terms such as “gay,” “lesbian” and “transgender” in his writing, and Christoph features artwork, by turns colorful and muted, of men in women’s clothing and smiling, same-sex couples dancing, holding hands and embracing. The story is told matter of factly, without being sensationalized.

If you’re looking for a similar book, I highly recommend one of Rob Sanders’ other storybooks, “Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag,” which I have previously reviewed in these pages. You can also consult any of the Children’s Department staff for additional guidance.

I also urge you to visit the Joplin Public Library and learn more about the events of the summer of 1969. We have books, DVDs and other resources for all ages that offer entertainment and edification.

http://catalog.joplinpubliclibrary.org/polaris/search/title.aspx?ctx=3.1033.0.0.2&pos=6

Song for the Unraveling of the World by Brian Evenson

Reading slumps aren’t uncommon. Lately, I’ve been starting books, only to return them unfinished. In times like these, I often turn to short stories to help me get back into the groove. Short stories take the pressure off of reading. I don’t have to track characters and plots for hundreds of pages. And this is where author Brian Evenson really shines. In his latest release, he builds worlds and characters in only a few pages.

SONG FOR THE UNRAVELING OF THE WORLD is a fairly short collection of stories at just over 200 pages. However, the collection contains 22 stories. I don’t have the space to review each story, but I’ve picked three that I think best represent this collection as a whole.

In the titular story, a daughter goes missing. Her father, Drago, searches the house but can’t find the little girl. Drago refuses to call the police for reasons the reader doesn’t immediately understand. But, as his search expands to include the surrounding neighborhood, the truth about Drago and his daughter is revealed. He will not call the police because he is living under a false identity. Why? Well, that would spoil the story.

“Room Tone” — Filip wants nothing more than to finish shooting his film. The only problem? The house he’s been using for filming has been sold and the new owner won’t let Filip in to complete the project. Filip isn’t happy with the sound of the film; the background noise is all wrong. He just needs in the house long enough to record a few minutes of silence. How far will he go to finish his film?

“The Hole” — A mission to explore a planet goes horribly wrong for those visiting the new world. Klim and the rest of the crew must search for Rurik, who has gone missing. Kim finds Rurik at the bottom of a large hole. There are only two problems: 1) Klim is also at the bottom of the hole and 2) Rurik is clearly dead, but still moving and talking. Can Klim escape? Even if he does, will he ever be the same?

Don’t go into this collection thinking you’re going to get answers. Much of the effectiveness of Evenson’s writing comes from what isn’t explicitly described in the stories. Evenson focuses in on the world of each story. With short stories, authors don’t have a lot of room for world-building. The challenge then becomes making these brief glimpses into the world fully believable. And this is where Evenson really shines.

Every story in the collection takes place in a distinct setting, each with its own history and set of rules. Even though several stories have similar themes or settings, Evenson made each one distinct. There seem to be nods to classic authors like Ray Bradbury and Shirley Jackson. (In fact, Everson was a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award in 2017.)

Evenson explores several themes throughout the collection. Identity and sense of self are perhaps the two most common themes. Can we change who we are? Is identity more than skin deep? Fair warning for the faint of heart, Evenson explores these ideas in a very literal sense. At times, he even uses a genre known as ‘body horror.’ If you’re not familiar with this genre, think of the movies The Fly and The Thing

Overall, I think this is a solid short story collection. Evenson’s masterful world-building goes a long way in making these stories successful. The stories overlap two of my favorite genres, Sci-Fi and horror, and though there aren’t any happy endings, this collection will make you think about bodies and identity in a whole new way.

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Book review by: Leslie Hayes

Breaker’s Reef by Terri Blackstock

In our reviews the library staff often mention the variety of formats we have for some titles. For example Breaker’s Reef by Terri Blackstock can be borrowed as a regular print book, a large print book, an ebook, and an eaudiobook. If you choose ebook or eaudio you can get it using the Hoopla app or from our MissouriLibraires2Go (Overdrive) collection.

There are 2 apps for Overdrive: Overdrive and Libby. The Libby app was recently updated to improve how you manage your downloads and to be compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Even though I don’t often use ebooks and eaudio (I like print) I decided to try it.
I updated my Libby app and when it opened I choose Library then Explore, What’s Available then Audiobooks. Breaker’s Reef was on the list and the download took less than a minute. To listen in the car after the phone connected to the car I just opened the app, started the book and it worked seamlessly (Disclaimer: I did recently upgrade my phone and vehicle).

I choose Breaker’s Reef just to try the updated app but my attention was caught in the first couple of paragraphs and by the time I got home I was hooked. This is an older Blackstock title and as I found out number 4 in the 4 book Cape Refuge series.
Matthew Cade, Cape Refuge’s police chief, is awakened in the early hours by a phone call. A dead teenage girl has been found floating in a rowboat on the river. The case is being handled by the police in Tybee, the neighboring town where the body is pulled ashore, but the victim, Emily Lawrence, is from Cape Refuge.

The police officer who discovered the body is also from Cape Refuge. Scott Crown is a young rookie and made a huge mistake by going outside his jurisdiction and pulling the body from the boat, washing away evidence. Both departments and the state police team up to investigate.
As law enforcement works to find the killer, the local newspaper is also trying to piece together the story. The owner of the paper, Blair, and her young assistant, Sadie, are talking and listening to Emily’s classmates. The first break in the case, however, comes from Sadie’s mother, Sheila.

Sheila spent a year in prison and has finally landed her first job since being released, typing for author Marcus Gibson. She finds Gibson strange. He writes novels about killers and he puts himself in the lives of his characters. He will sleep in the woods, swim fully clothed in the river, and hang out with criminals and addicts.

Part of her job is putting Gibson’s early novels in a digital format. In doing so Sheila realizes that the murder in the first novel is eerily similar to the way Emily died. She takes her discovery to the police.
As law enforcement works to build a case against Gibson, Cade and Blair discover another victim. Jamie Maddox came to Cape Refuge with her best friend Amelia. Amelia came looking for her birth mother, Sheila. Now Jamie is dead, shot with the same caliber weapon as Emily, and Amelia is missing.

The evidence points to Gibson but he has been under surveillance. Then Jamie’s missing sandal and blood are discovered in Cade’s truck. Is there more than one killer and how is Sheila involved? The case has gone from one suspect to many. To complicate things further, once Sadie finds out she has a sister she is determined to find Amelia putting herself in harm’s way.

Even though I had not read the first 3 books I quickly got into the rhythm of the series. The characters are likeable and the story builds to a suspenseful climax. This novel is in the genre of inspirational suspense so the faith and struggles of the characters is a central theme. However it is the search for the killer that keeps you guessing and propels this story forward.

If you’re interested and want to know how to get started or need help using Overdrive and/or Hoopla just call or come to the Reference Service desk at the library. We are happy to help.

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Mae Among the stars by Roda Ahmed & Look Up With Me: Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Life Among the Stars” by Jennifer Berne

The summer reading program is in full swing inside the library’s children’s department. Sillies are being shaken out during weekly story times, books are flying off of the shelves and we are all learning about outer space.

Because this year’s summer reading theme is “A Universe of Stories,” I want to highlight a few of our newest and best extraterrestrial reads.

RODA AHMED’s “MAE AMONG THE STARS” has taken up permanent rotation in my son’s bedtime story lineup and has earned a place on my regular list of picture book recommendations as well.

Ahmed’s picture book is a fictionalized retelling of astronaut Mae Jemison’s childhood and her love for astronomy and the night sky.

The book begins with a young, pig-tailed Mae daydreaming about seeing Earth from outer space. As she looks out at the night sky from her front porch, her mom tells her, “If you can dream it, if you believe it and work hard for it, anything is possible.”

This refrain acts as a guiding narrative, following Mae as she builds a spaceship out of cardboard boxes, checks out astronomy books at the library and shares her dreams with her family, friends and classmates.

When a teacher encourages her to pursue a more female-centric profession, she quickly grows discouraged, but her mother’s words act as a gentle reminder to follow her dreams.

Illustrator Stasia Burrington’s softly colored ink illustrations in “Mae Among the Stars” are excellent, specifically in relation to her use of color to represent Mae’s moods. Her sadness is reflected in an icy blue color scheme; when her mom encourages her to dream big, the colors are bright, bold and almost reminiscent of the Northern Lights.

The story itself follows a simple narrative biographical arc of following your dreams regardless of naysayers, but it does so in the format of a picture book specifically for preschool and early elementary readers.

History books for this age group can often be too wordy or packed with intangible concepts such as grit or bravery, but Ahmed manages to make those concepts tangible through her simple yet clear storytelling. “Mae Among the Stars” is both an accessible biography for the youngest readers and a fun, intriguing story for all.

Another space-centric book I have been enjoying this year is JENNIFER BERNE and LORRAINE NAM’s “LOOK UP WITH ME: NEIL deGRASSE TYSON: A LIFE AMONG THE STARS.”

The astronomer is fairly well-known, in large part because of his narration of the remade documentary series “Cosmos” as well as his humorous and amiable personality in his role as director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and an internet sensation. As with “Mae Among the Stars,” “Look Up With Me” turns the long-winded, text-heavy biography into something more palatable for the younger, more wiggly set.

The book begins with a paper cut image of a baby Tyson in a crib while a friendly, anthropomorphic planet sits close by in a rocking chair; his parents’ shadows are visible in light spilling through the doorway. “Neil deGrasse Tyson opened his eyes, and there it was. The universe. Just waiting to be discovered,” reads Berne’s accompanying text.

The book buzzes along pleasantly, with the young Tyson portrayed as an eager and curious learner whose life was changed when he visited the Hayden Planetarium as a child. Perseverance and hard work are obvious but subtle (though never preachy) themes; Neil walks neighborhood dogs to raise money for his first real telescope, and he travels overseas at 15 to give paid speeches about astronomy.

Berne’s biography deals with the more concrete matters of Tyson’s life in the first half of “Look Up With Me,” while the latter half feels more focused on encouraging young readers to follow their dreams.

However, Berne roots these details in scientific realities (“Shooting stars are really meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere. And most of them are smaller than a blueberry!”), an effect that makes the book feel less moralistic than it might otherwise be.

Nam’s paper cut images are exceptional and put this biography miles ahead of its bookish peers.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage you to sign up for the all-ages summer reading program online or on our website (www.joplinpubliclibrary.org). We have events nearly every day in the children’s department, as well.

Find Mae Among the Stars and Look Up With Me in our catalog.

Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11 by James Donovan

Joplin Public Library started its Summer Reading Program on May 28, 2019 and it will run until July 26, 2019. During this time, we want to encourage people of all ages to read and attend library programs based on a central theme. For this year, the theme is “A Universe of Stories”, so our programs center around space and science-related themes. Our website has more information with a link to the calendar of events. There are also game boards/event calendars available at the library with more details. You do not need a library card to participate. For adults, events will include an opportunity to go on a virtual tour through a space museum, learn about the weather, compete in a trivia contest, and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing on July 20, 2019.

Speaking of the anniversary of the moon landing, I recently started reading Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11. This book goes through the entire history of the space program, from Project Mercury to Project Gemini to the Apollo missions that put man on the moon. For each mission, it seems like the astronauts get all of the fame, but author James Donovan does a good job at telling the stories of the lesser-known people who helped get man into space and onto the moon. While there is a lot of information in this book, it is presented in an accessible way. There are plenty of pictures that help put faces to the names and add a layer to the story.

So while I can recommend this book, what I really recommend is celebrating the universe and how far we have come to understand it, although we still have a long way to go. The future of space exploration is exciting and necessary. There are all sorts of new developments that deserve recognition. Back in April, the first image of a black hole was captured. NASA has recently announced its goal for another moon landing by 2024. This mission will pave the way for humans to set foot on Mars. Curiosity is still on Mars sampling the environment. SpaceX continues its rocket launches with the ultimate goal to have humans live on other planets.

At the library we want to promote a sense of wonder. Here are some activities you can do to achieve this: Try to find some planets in the night sky. Watch the International Space Station fly overhead. Visit the Post Art Library and see an exhibit dedicated to the Hubble Telescope. Watch footage of the moon landing. Check out a book on space, whether it be fiction or nonfiction. Be curious this summer, and do some exploring with Joplin Public Library.

 

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Bluff by Jane Stanton Hitchcock

If you’ve ever taken a writing course you’ve heard ‘write what you know’. Jane Stanton Hitchcock must have been following that advice when she penned her latest book. The author is a poker player whose mother was swindled by her financial advisor much like Maud Warner in Bluff.

Maud is known as Mad Maud Warner by the denizens of New York high society. Maud used to be a member but her family fortune vanished with her mother Lois’ death. Burt Sklar was managing that fortune and Maud’s nickname came from her frequent and vociferous accusations of theft against Sklar.

Maud grew older moved to Washington D.C. and developed a passion for poker; but she did not move on. As we meet her she is dressing very carefully in designer clothing from her more affluent days. Dress is very important so that she looks like she belongs where she is going. Millionaire Sun Sunderland frequently lunches at the Four Seasons and on this day his dinner companion is Burt Sklar.

Maud calmly walks into the famous restaurant and tells the maître de that she is meeting Sunderland. As she approaches the booth she pulls out a gun, aims and fires, then drops the gun and just as calmly walks out.

Even though the shooting is all over the news Maud knows that a middle-aged woman in the right clothes with a calm manner is invisible. She catches the train to D.C. and once there goes into hiding.

The assumption is Maud was aiming at Burt but missed and shot Sunderland (helped by Sklar who tried to use his good friend as a human shield). Sunderland’s condition is grave as his wife Jean rushes to the hospital.

Jean keeps a vigil at the hospital while her gossipy friends await news. When she is finally allowed into the ICU she has company. She discovers Sun has another wife, a former stripper named Dany. After Sun makes it clear he wants Dany, a stunned and furious Jean seeks refuge with her friend Greta.

When Sun dies things get really interesting. Maud is now wanted for murder and Jean finds she is almost penniless as Burt has a power of attorney signed by Sun leaving Burt and Dany in control of his fortune.

This novel starts more than halfway through the story so Maud begins to fill us in on the beginning of her association with Sklar. We move between Maud’s story and what is happening with Jean, Dany and the police who are getting desperate to find Maud.

Maud’s grievances against Sklar are numerous and large; they involve not only her mother and money but also her brother Alan. Maud is a very good poker player but to get revenge she’ll need to pull off the biggest bluff of her life. Will Maud succeed, what happens with Jean and Dany, and what did Sun mean when he exclaimed just before being shot “Lois! No! We killed you!”? Plus there is a plot twist I didn’t see coming.

Stanton Hitchcock is not an author I had read before but I made a note to check it out after reading a couple of reviews. Words like smartly plotted, frothy fun, quick-moving and intricate drew me. It lived up to the hype. Bluff is a fun read and the reviewers described it perfectly.

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Teen Nonfiction Fun for Summer

 

Make: Minecraft for Makers by John Baichtal

Start to Stitch by Nancy Nicholson, Claire Buckley, and Miriam Edwards

Teens Cook Dessert by Megan and Jill Carle with Judi Carle

We’ve made it to the middle of May when life becomes a frenzy of pollen and exams and changes and celebrations, spinning faster every day only to explode into a three-day weekend that launches summer.  Here at the library that culminates in the summer reading program–two months of adventures in reading, learning, and fun for all ages.

Participants will have a chance to read for prizes and enjoy a variety of activities.  Most importantly, summer reading helps keep literacy skills sharp during weeks of downtime when many students are out of school.  Because adolescence is a time of self-discovery and learning how to move through the world, the Teen Department encourages personal growth as well as reading.  We call it the Teen Summer Challenge because teens can stretch themselves socially and developmentally in a supported environment. The library offers activities and resources to encourage them along the journey.

One way we do this is through gaming.  Games can sharpen mathematical, reasoning, literacy, and social skills and are fun!  They can also act as springboards to other pursuits. Popular computer game Minecraft has spawned an entire fandom.  In Make: Minecraft for Makers, John Baichtal uses the game as a stepping stone to maker activities.  His 9 projects take the blocky elements of the game “and introduce them to our world” using LEGOs, circuitry, 3D printing, woodworking, Arduino microcontrollers, and laser cutting.  Projects range from fairly simple (Emerald Ore Blocks made with LEGOs) to quite advanced (Redstone Lamp and a motorized Robot Creeper). Other than the LEGO designs, everything will involve some combination of power tools, circuitry, electronics, or spray paint.  Baichtal’s writing style is straightforward–utilitarian with clear explanations tying projects to the game. Color illustrations are throughout, and a final chapter gives a crash course on Arduino technology used in some projects.

The book is published by the folks behind Make: magazine and reflects the “serious fun” found there.  These projects are designed for heavy adult supervision with attention to safety and represent an investment of time and materials in some cases.  The designs are super cool–I’m considering trying the chess set with our chess group using the laser cutter in the library’s makerspace. Offer this book to high schoolers or mature middle schoolers (individuals or groups) working with experienced adults (a neat activity for a Scout troop).

Maker activities are a fantastic means of mastering a new skill or learning STEM concepts or fine tuning eye-hand coordination.  They can incorporate computers and robotics or be low-tech pursuits like crocheting and sewing. The Teen Department has a sewing machine, and we’ll experiment with it during June and July.

Teens learning to sew will find a fun start and engaging designs in Start to Stitch by Nancy Nicholson, Claire Buckley, and Miriam Edwards.  Colorful photos show step-by-step instructions for sewing by hand or machine as well as finished products.  The book introduces stitches and skills as needed in each design; some of the stitch photos can be small or basic, so some new sewers may benefit from initial instruction or additional resources (book or video) before tackling a project, particularly machine sewing.  Start to Stitch is divided into chapters based on technique: applique, embroidery, patchwork, quilting.  It’s full of vibrant, accessible designs ranging from beginner to moderate skill levels. The designs vary from accessories (applique brooch, patchwork belt) to bags (Heart Purse, Sashiko Bag) to decor items (a quilted cat wall hanging, a patchwork pillow).  The book’s designs skew feminine, and its illustrations are exclusively so. If desired, some projects can easily be made gender neutral with minimal changes. A brief glossary rounds things out. Give this title to teens who have the basics of hand or machine sewing.

Community building is a year-round goal of the Teen Department, and it’s wonderful to see teens make that connection.  One of our activities is to practice a random act of kindness–inspired by former patrons who were very excited to have done something nice for someone else.  Cooking offers many chances to build relationships, and Teens Cook Dessert is one great resource.  Written by sisters Megan and Jill Carle with their mother, Judi Carle, this title neither assumes gourmet-level experience nor insults the cook’s intelligence.  Using a realistic approach and clear language, the authors present a wide variety of family favorites (turtle brownies, pound cake) and interesting twists (nectarine ravioli, gingerbread & pumpkin trifle).  Recipes are gathered into chapters by type (cookies, cakes, custards, fancy, etc.); each recipe includes a color photo of the finished product and brief, lively anecdote. Short sidebars covering kitchen tips, terms, science, shortcuts, and history abound.  A handy ingredients discussion is included. Both the layout and the tone are inviting without trying too hard. This is a great book for teens ready to move beyond boxed mixes.

There’s lots of fun to be had and things to try during summer reading!  The adventures begin at the library on May 28. Watch our website for details: http://www.joplinpubliclibrary.org/

 

Beth Snow is the Teen Department Librarian at the Joplin Public Library.

A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia Savage McAlester

May is Preservation Month, a celebration that promotes our heritage through our historic places. As such, I’m glad to share my impressions of a preservation-related title, A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia Savage McAlester.

I was first introduced to this book years ago, by my friend Leslie Simpson, who said, “One of the best ways to learn about the history of a community is to study its buildings.” Indeed, architecture has a story to tell. But first, we must learn to listen. Through this title, McAlester teaches us how to listen to the stories of American domestic architecture.

Spanning centuries of the development of American houses, from the 17th-century to present, this guide is for anyone interested in learning how to identify the style of American houses through architectural features, from frame and form to embellishments or the lack thereof.

Initially published in 1984, McAlester expands the 2014 revision to include an overview of the house styles built during the millennial housing boom, 1990-2008, and a section on neighborhoods that describes the ways American houses are usually grouped together. Also, the second edition provides new information based on research that wasn’t available at the time the first edition was written.

Readers may reference this book in a variety of ways, as discussed in the brief ‘How to Use This Book’ portion, which I recommend (actually) reading. For quick identification or for a sort of crash course in the basics of American houses, both the Pictorial Key and the Pictorial Glossary that follow the how-to section are helpful. Roof form, chimneys, railings, windows, and more are depicted in the Pictorial Key, whereas the Pictorial Glossary depicts common descriptive house terms as well as classical elements often applied to houses.

The first chapter is an overview of American houses, including information about style, form, structure, and neighborhoods. The seven chapters that follow go into greater detail about the types of houses found within specific styles. For example, Native American, Pre-Railroad, National, and Manufactured houses are types of houses within Folk Houses. Italianate and Gothic Revival are types found within Romantic Houses (1820-1880); Richardsonian Romanesque, Queen Anne, and Shingle are found within Victorian Houses (1860-1900); Craftsman and Prairie within Modern Houses (1900-present); and so on. Frankly, the fun is in the details rather than the overview, though the latter is the foundation for the former.

In addition to abundant depicions of architectural elements, photographic examples, and textual information, McAlester chronicles how geography, innovation, materials, weather, and more have impacted the development of American homes. Heating innovations, for example, literally shaped American houses, as did automobiles. In fact, automobiles continue to shape our homes: the space used to house automobiles when compared to a 1,000 square foot house in 1915 was 0%, which grew to 15% by 1930; to 25% by 1950; to 45% by 1970; and to 75% by the 2000s. McAlester also touches upon some of the sufferings of old houses brought on by so-called improvements.

McAlester’s book is comprehensive, including something for everyone and for anyone with a desire to know more about how our dwellings came to be, how they’ve developed over time, how we have shaped them and, interestingly, how they have shaped us. I recommend this field guide to everyone, whether the desired outcome is to simply identify the house up the street or to survey and develop a narrative for an entire neighborhood.

I might add that we are able to provide a copy of this title for checkout, rather than for reference-only, as is typical, thanks to a donation made by the Joplin Historical Society in memory of Martha Elizabeth Belk. You’ll find A Field Guide to American Houses in our Memorial Book section, which is located at the beginning of our New Nonfiction.

Happy Preservation Month and, as always, happy reading.

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