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Mildly Spooky Missouri

Haunted Graveyards of the Ozarks by David E. Harkins

Missouri’s Haunted Route 66: Ghosts Along the Mother Road by Janice Tremeear

Paranormal Missouri: Show Me Your Monsters by Jason Offutt

When it comes to all things horror, I readily admit that I am a first-class, Grade A chicken. My personal threshold of scary is so low it’s subterranean. Forget about Ghostbusters, and for pity’s sake please don’t bring up Gremlins after dark. Things are better than they used to be, though–I can now make it down (most) Halloween aisles in stores and enjoy neighborhood decorations. This is why I only mildly flinched when the library’s High School Book Club voted to read a paranormal title for October.

I found a trio of interestingly spooky-yet-mild-enough books of local and statewide interest to fit the bill. All three relate paranormal encounters or ghost stories from a variety of locations in the Ozarks or around Missouri–a combination of tales handed down, results of paranormal investigations, and the authors’ personal experiences. Depending upon the reader, the stories may register between mild to moderate on the spooky scale although there are a few that are significantly freaky. None of them are as spine chilling as Stephen King, but they aren’t meant to be.

Haunted Graveyards of the Ozarks, part of the Haunted America series from The History Press, registers at “very mild”. It is a great place to start for the easily startled. More local history than anything, this title introduces a selection of historic cemeteries around the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks noted for their paranormal activity. Author David E. Harkins focuses on each cemetery’s background, only briefly describing his visit to each site and summarizing reports of ghostly encounters there. Of local interest, he includes Peace Church Cemetery in Joplin and the Spanish Fort Cemetery near Mount Vernon.  Harkins also includes an informative overview of Ozarks funeral customs and superstitions. Haunted Graveyards of the Ozarks is great for quick bites of regional history or for readers with a low threshold of scary.

Sitting midway between the “mild” and “moderate” settings, Missouri’s Haunted Route 66: Ghosts Along the Mother Road blends more spookiness for a fun, quick travelogue. The book is divided into chapters traveling the Mother Road from St. Louis to Joplin with each entry providing some backstory and describing paranormal encounters at sites along the way. It’s a nice introduction to locations known for reported hauntings; although entries vary in length and detail, most are short and lend themselves well to reading in spurts or for use as a travel guide. Unlike the skeptical tone of Haunted Graveyards, author Janice Tremeear readily accepts otherworldly aspects of the subject relaying more stories and legends surrounding the sites without questioning their existence. As for haunted southwest Missouri, the usual suspects appear: Kendrick House in Carthage, Prosperity School, the former Freeman Hospital in Joplin, and the Spook Light at Hornet. Skip the local sites if you’re familiar with them. Otherwise, grab Missouri’s Haunted Route 66 for an enjoyable road trip.

Paranormal Missouri: Show Me Your Monsters is firmly at “moderate” on the scale for me–likely less than that for everyone else. (I had to read this one only during daylight hours.) As freaky as it is spooky, the book is an intriguing compilation of ghostly, extraterrestrial, and Bigfoot stories (many based on the author’s personal experience) with a dash of medical oddity thrown in. Author Jason Offutt, a columnist and blogger chronicling the out-of-the-ordinary, relates encounters from sites around the state–some infamous, some less known–in an easygoing, conversational style. Offutt doesn’t assume anything about the reader and offers a helpful mini-glossary of key terms in the introduction. He also adds an appendix outlining his paranormal adventures in the state. In between these two resources are 43 weird and creepy tales. Reading them is like listening to your friends tell ghost stories around a campfire with a flashlight shining underneath their chins–it’s only a flashlight pointed upward, but the spooky shadows it creates significantly up the “eek” factor. See the sections “Red Eyes in the Darkness” (personally filed under “Why did he have to include a photo?”) and “Screams of the Alien” (Are you sure those are your sister’s roommates making those noises? Do you really want to stick around and find out?) for examples.

You can find these and oodles more eerie selections year-round at the library–you don’t have to wait for Halloween to try one. Happy haunting and happy reading!

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 was with talking about issues people faced in their particular countries, 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 sought to create a well-rounded show an hour at a 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, trying new things — 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 to 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.

Find in catalog

Teen Non-Fiction Conversation Starters–Raggin’, Jazzin’, Rockin’: A History of American Musical Instrument Makers by Susan VanHecke and Tokyo Geek’s Guide: Manga, Anime, Gaming, Cosplay, Toys, Idols & More by Gianni Simone

Raggin’, Jazzin’, Rockin’: A History of American Musical Instrument Makers by Susan VanHecke

Tokyo Geek’s Guide: Manga, Anime, Gaming, Cosplay, Toys, Idols & More by Gianni Simone

It’s August?  I can’t believe it’s here already!  Summer reading just ended–it can’t be time for school to start.  I’m in utter denial. I have yet to flip my office wall calendar; Pusheen will just have to eat ice cream in July for a while.  At least there’s been time to sneak in a read or two before things are in full swing.

These titles have been interesting reading.  They’re a duo of teen(ish) non-fiction full of opportunities for starting conversations between teens and adults–something different than familiar, heavy duty topics of life choices.  Whether you’re a teen or a teen-adjacent adult, there’s something here for you.

If you’re a fan of anime or manga or have wondered what all the fuss was about, then try Tokyo Geek’s Guide: Manga, Anime, Gaming, Cosplay, Toys, Idols & More by Gianni Simone.  Although housed in adult non-fiction, this title has plenty of teen appeal.  It’s also a fascinating glimpse into aspects of Japanese pop culture with a massive U.S. teen fan base.  First and foremost, the book is a travel guide to hotbeds of otaku (superfans of anime, manga, and related subjects) culture in and around Tokyo.  Even if you’re unlikely to travel to Tokyo, this is a great vehicle for daydreaming or planning a virtual trip. Tokyo Geek’s Guide offers vibrant colors and fun-yet-pleasing fonts across an engaging layout.  It’s chock full of interesting information with plenty of maps and photos. It includes explanation of the different aspects of otaku culture for those who want it–more familiar readers can jump right into the book which is arranged by neighborhood.  Various features highlight how to use the book, special activities and locations, and travel tips. There is a helpful glossary for newbies. Full of engaging content and aesthetic appeal, give this title to teens with an interest in anime, manga, cosplay, or Japan as well as to adults curious about otaku culture or with an interest in travel.  Whether you’re navigating a teen fandom or introducing your parents to your obsession, there’s plenty to chat about.

At first glance, Raggin’, Jazzin’, Rockin’: A History of American Musical Instrument Makers by Susan VanHecke is not an obvious choice for a teen audience.  Yet, it surprises readers with a lively, colorful approach to a potentially dry subject.  Both the text and layout are geared for middle school readers, but the book can still offer something to high schoolers.  You can discover the stories of a handful of famous instrument makers and their creations from Steinway pianos and Hammond organs to Fender and Martin guitars.  Band students will recognize Conn trumpets and Ludwig drums and Zildjian cymbals. Lots of engaging, creative illustrations catch the eye–photos of the makers and of musicians, historic ads, cutaways and patent drawings of the instruments.  There is plenty to see here as well as read. The well-researched text won’t set the world on fire, but it’s solid and could spark an interest. Above all, this title is a great tool for connecting adults and teens. Grab the book and head to YouTube to explore the instruments, the makers, and the music.  (We fell down a Moog synthesizer rabbit hole at a recent teen activity and wound up making electronic music with Garage Band.) Or, share cuts from your respective music collections. It’s fantastic for fostering those wonderful, rambling conversations–conversations seemingly about nothing yet really about everything important.  Give this book to middle schoolers or reluctant readers with an interest in music or history or to adults looking for a quick read on the topic.

Speaking of music, it was this year’s summer reading theme and great fun.  Teens and adults have one last opportunity to rock the library and wrap up summer reading for grades 6 and up.  Join us this Tuesday, August 7, at 7:30 pm in the Joplin Public Library Community Room for a wizard rock concert with nationally-known band Tonks and the Aurors with Lauren Fairweather, founder of the Moaning Myrtles.  Wizard rock consists of rock music with lyrics set in the Harry Potter universe. There will also be a writing workshop with Wizards in Space literary magazine an hour before the concert. These programs are free and open to teens and adults.  Neither registration nor summer reading participation is required. Questions? Call the library’s Teen Office at 417-623-7953, ext. 1027, or email teen@joplinpubliclibrary.org   See you at the concert!

Find in catalog–here and here.