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Reading for Change: Books by Black Authors

All of these titles can be found via the JPL catalog

Picture Books

M is for Melanin

Concepts ABC Rose

That is my dream! : A picture book of Langston Hughes’s “Dream variation”

People Diversity Hughes

What’s the Difference?: Being Different is Amazing

    People Diversity Richards

Saturday

    People Mom Mora

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

    Self Self Esteem Barnes

Just Like Me

Self Self Esteem Brantley-Newton

Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration

    Self Self Esteem Doyon

I am Enough

Self Self Esteem Byers

Sulwe

    Self Self Esteem Nyong’o

Hey Black Child

    Self Self Esteem Perkins

You Matter

    Self Self Esteem Robinson

Freedom Soup

    Stories Food Charles

The Undefeated

Stories History Alexander

Let the Children March

    Stories History Clark-Robinson

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

    Stories History Hubbard

Before She Was Harriet

Stories History Ransome

Easy Fiction and Easy Nonfiction

Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel

    Easy Fic Grimes Nikki

Jada Jones series

    Easy Fic Lyons Kelly Starling

The Amazing Life of Azaleah Lane

    Easy Fic Smith Nikki Shannon

Let’s Talk About Race

    Easy Nonfic 305.8 L56L c. 1

Child of the Civil Rights Movement

    Easy Nonfic 323.11 Sh4c

Trombone Shorty

    Easy Nonfic 788.9 An2t

The Stone Thrower

    Easy Nonfic 796.332 Ea5r

Juvenile Fiction and Juvenile Nonfiction

The Crossover

    J Fiction Alexander Kwame

Blended

    J Fiction Draper Sharon

The Parker Inheritance

    J Fiction Johnson Varian

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

    J Fiction Mbalia Kwame

Ghost Boys

    J Fiction Rhodes Jewell Parker

Betty Before X

    J Fiction Shabazz Ilyasah

Piecing Me Together & Ways to Make Sunshine

    J Fiction Watson Renee

Genesis Begins Again

    J Fiction Williams Alicia

Brown Girl Dreaming

    J Fiction Woodson Jacqueline

My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich

    J Fiction Zoboi Ibi

New Kid

    J Nonfic 741.5 C84n

We are the Ship: the story of Negro League Baseball

    J Nonfic 796.357 N33w

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets

    J Nonfic 808.1 AL2o

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement

    J Nonfic 817 H11w

The Women Who Caught the Babies: A Story of African American Midwives

    J Nonfic 973.0496 G82w

Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History & Little Dreamers: Bold Women in Black History

    J Nonfic 973.0496 H24L

Teen Fiction

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

     Teen Coles Jay

Let Me Hear A Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson

     Teen Jackson Tiffany

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

     Teen Magoon Kekla

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

     Teen Reynolds Jason

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

     Teen Stone Nic

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

     Teen Thomas Angie

If You Come Softly and Behind You by Jacqueline Woodson

     Teen Woodson Jacqueline

Teen Non-Fiction

Teen Graphic Novels

March, Books 1-3 by John Lewis

      Teengn Lewis John March

I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina

      Teengn Medina Tony I Am

Fiction

The Vanishing Half

    Fiction Bennett Brit

The Water Dancer

    Fiction Coates Ta-Nehisi

Homegoing

    Fiction Yaa Gyasi

The Broken Earth series

Fiction Jemisin N.K.

Such a Fun Age

    Fiction Reid Kiley

Real Life

    Fiction Taylor Brandon

Sing, Unburied, Sing

    Fiction Ward Jesmyn

The Nickel Boys

Fiction Whitehead Colin

Red at the Bone

    Fiction Woodson Jacqueline

Non-Fiction

Bad Feminist

    305.42 G25 2014

How to be an Antiracist

    305.8 K34h 2019

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

305.8 K34s 2016

Heavy: An American Memoir

    305.896 L45h 2018

How We Fight For Our Lives

    811 J71h 2019

The Yellow House

    921 B79y 2019

Gardening At Any Age

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lifelong Gardener: Garden With Ease & Joy At Any Age by Toni Gattone

Plant, Cook, Eat!: A Children’s Cookbook by Joe Archer and Caroline Craig

Summer is upon us! Flowers are blooming, and so is this new crop of illustrated gardening books. It’s a great time for all ages to get outside and dig in the dirt!

Plant, Cook, Eat!: A Children’s Cookbook by Joe Archer and Caroline Craig encourages kids to explore edible crops in the garden and in the kitchen. The first half of the book walks readers through basic gardening concepts–plant parts, seed germination, soil preparation and amendment, starting plants, maintenance, and pest control–in clear, concise text with just enough information to engage without overwhelming. Brief sections, “Healthy Eating” and “Get Ready to Cook” bridge the gap between vegetable patch and plate by introducing food groups, cooking equipment, and kitchen safety and sanitation. The book’s second half pairs growing instructions with recipes for a variety of vegetables from beans to zucchini. Each featured crop gets a lively four-page spread to document the garden-to-table journey. Recipes range from entrees to sides to snacks to dessert and include a variety of techniques from stir frying to baking. Two recipes I can’t wait to try are the Chocolate Beet Cake and the Tomato, Feta, and Basil Pizza.

Inside and out, Plant, Cook, Eat! is a feast for the eyes, a riot of color that enhances the content. Pages are layered in color–a muted background, color photographs bordered by a contrasting shade, cheerful cut-paper veggies and kitchen utensils peppered among text and photos. The book provides a fun opportunity for families to make memories together and sneak in some life skills building at the same time. The kitchen tasks and some of the garden activities require adult supervision and are a better fit for middle-upper elementary students than for the younger set. A glossary and list of vegetable varieties round out the resources.

The beauty of gardening is that, like cooking (and reading), it’s a lifelong pursuit adaptable to a variety of circumstances. In her book The Lifelong Gardener: Garden With Ease & Joy At Any Age, Toni Gattone offers strategies to keep gardening despite physical challenges. A certified Master Gardener with “a persistent bad back”, she writes knowledgeably from experience. Adaptive gardening provides approaches to greater safety and comfort for gardeners of all ages who may have a limited range of motion, use mobility aids, want to reduce stress on their joints, experience decreased strength, etc. The goal is “to identify what works for them in their garden according to their personal physical realities”.

Preferring to “focus on proactive solutions”, Gattone provides a variety of tips and techniques so that readers can choose what works best for their situations. In “You and Your Body”, she encourages self-examination (what chores or movements are easier or harder) then moves to acceptance of change (know your limits, expect ease) and resilience (change the way you operate, don’t be afraid to ask for help). She proposes modifications for challenges with balance, stamina, mobility, pain, strength, reaction time, eyesight, memory, and temperature sensitivity. Easy stretches and lifting techniques complete the section.

The remainder of the book focuses on specifics for adapting the garden space itself and the tools to work it. The goal is “a garden of ease” that provides comfort and safety without sacrificing enjoyment. Gattone’s suggestions are as wide ranging as gardens themselves: incorporate ADA standards for wheelchair access, consider downsizing the garden, add seating (or more seating), use contrasting colors for hardscapes and railings, try raised beds or square foot gardens or vertical gardens, remove gravel and wide gaps in paths, use drip irrigation instead of lugging heavy hoses, add a bike grip to tool handles, use long-reach handles on tools. “Toni’s Tips” and “Brand Loyalty” feature ideas and tools directly from the author’s experience.

Like Plant, Cook, Eat!, The Lifelong Gardener bursts with color–a multitude of color photographs (many Instagram-worthy) plus muted borders and information boxes. This book invites you in, effectively illustrates its message, and exudes congeniality while addressing a difficult topic. A helpful resources list and a form for an “Adaptive Gardening Action Plan” add to the package.

Gardens and books have something to offer all ages. I hope you have an opportunity to enjoy both this summer!

The Penguin Book of Mermaids, edited by Christina Bacchilega and Marie Alohalni Brown

The beginning of summer is an exciting time here at the library, as it marks the launch of our annual Summer Reading Program, a multi-faceted all-ages program with challenges, games, and opportunities to win prizes. Though this year is quite different than those previous – we’re nearly a week into our first ever all-virtual summer reading program – it’s exciting all the same. This year, the themes of fairy tales, mythology, and fantasy are woven into a collective slogan: “Imagine Your Story.”

Recently, I set sail with The Penguin Book of Mermaids, a collection of stories about mermaids and merfolk edited by Christina Bacchilega and Marie Alohalni Brown, both of whom are professors at the University of Hawai’i at Māoa. To be honest, it’s happenstance that I chose a title that fits snugly into this year’s summer reading theme. I chose it not for its relation to mythology, but because of my fascination with and fondness for large bodies of water. As it turns out, I’m also fascinated by mythology, at least that which is water-centric.

Before diving in, the editors introduce us to this sea of stories by providing cultural and historical contexts, asking questions, discussing the aims of the book, and examining the complexities of human/nonhuman relationships. From Henrich Heine’s “Die Lore-Ley” to “Mermaids Among Us Today,” their introduction provides an overarching critique that they maintain throughout the book with succinct introductions/critiques to most of the stories within. Also, they remind us that “Mermaid stories did not emerge as fairy tales–that is, as fictions–but as myths and legends.”

Of the sixty-plus stories included in the book, twenty make their debut in the English language, having been translated from nine different languages. The tales are organized as follows: Water Deities and Sirens from Olden Times; Mermaids and Other Merbeings in Europe; Literary Tales; and Merfolk and Water Spirits Across Cultures. The stories may be read as stand-alones and their lengths range from very short, such as a few stanzas or a paragraph, to several pages, though most are a page or two. For those who would like to dive deeper, the editors offer numerous suggestions for further reading as well as extensive endnotes.

I’m as intrigued with the editors’ introductions and commentary as with the actual stories. Perhaps more intrigued, at times, as their comments illuminate the tales in a way that encourages us to further explore and reflect on the stories we think we are familiar with through contemporary adaptations, such as The Little Mermaid, which is shared in both its Japanese and American versions.

Interestingly, these tales share common literary dichotomies and themes regardless of the culture from where they came. Good vs. evil, real vs. imaginary, soul vs. body, human vs. nonhuman, love vs. hate, courage and heroism, sexuality and gender and coming of age are some examples. The editors do well to examine and discuss these and others throughout the book, including humans’ tendency to “collectively other anything nonhuman or not wholly human.”

In a word, The Penguin Book of Mermaids is fantastic. It’s academic, cross-cultural, entertaining, and as mesmerizing as the very mermaids and merfolk depicted within.

To begin imagining your (virtual) summer reading story, visit www.joplinpubliclibrary.org. Bon voyage! And, as always, happy reading.

Find in Catalog 

Digital Knitting Round-up

In the summer of 2009, I needed a distraction. It was just before my sophomore year of college – I was an English major here at Missouri Southern – and I was looking for new ways to spend my time. I made a list of about 20 things to accomplish over the summer (nothing productive, just for fun): juggling, performing magic tricks, being ambidextrous. By the end of summer, the only thing could confidently cross off was: learn to knit.

The inspiration had come from a book – there are few more likely sources of inspiration for an English major. My knitting muse is a character from the young adult series “The Nine Lives of Chloe King.”  The series is about a girl who learns she is one of a group of cat-people; the romantic interest opposite Chloe is a boy who knit his own earflap hat with cat ears. I wanted that hat, and by the end of the year – I had one.

I did not stop knitting after the hat, and the first place I turned to for new inspiration was knitting books. People who knit are incredibly creative, and there are some really excellent pattern books available at the Joplin Public Library. These books are full of glorious, full color pictures of the most amazing things knitters can accomplish – with step-by-step instructions so that you can accomplish them too.

I love looking at these books; I do not love trying to hold a book open while I am using both of my hands to knit.

So, instead of telling you about some of my favorites from the JPL’s physical collection, I am going to round up a few of the most interesting pattern books available in our digital collection. Knitting from a digital book is a breeze: my tablet sits propped up at just the right angle, never loses my spot, and I can often even zoom in to any particularly complicated charts I may encounter.

Most recently I was working from “Interweave Favorites: 25 Knitted Accessories to Wear and Share,” which is full of cute and colorful accessories that knit up relatively quickly. To me, small projects are the most fun – there is nothing more depressing than the half-done sweater or afghan that you just don’t want to finish.

If you are tired of knitting basic hats and scarves, maybe you will enjoy “Once Upon a Knit” by Genevieve Miller. These patterns are all inspired by fairy tale stories and classic literature: from Little Red Riding Hood’s red riding hood to a Wonderland-inspired beret.

Once you have knitting basics down, I recommend that you check out Margaret Radcliffe’s “Circular Knitting Workshop.” Radcliffe guides you step-by-step through circular knitting: the process of knitting in one continuous loop, making a tube of fabric. This process is a game-changer for socks, hats, sleeves, mittens, and almost every knitting project you want to make.

The final book in my round-up is “2-at-a-Time Socks” by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. Knitting a comfortable sock is complicated – it involves constant measuring, and knowing exactly where to make the heel is crucial. The last thing many knitters want to do when they finish a sock is start another one. That’s where this book comes in. If you master the two-at-a-time technique, you never have to suffer through knitting two socks in a row ever again! Knitting both socks at the same time also helps ensure that your pair is identical, rather than one sock being slightly longer or wider than the other.

I have been knitting steadily for almost eleven years now, and I am much better than I was in my cat-ear hat days. Being able to bring something to life with just a piece of string and a couple of sticks is a magical feeling, and if you find yourself at a loss for how to spend your time, you might give it a try. I have always found it to be a rewarding and fulfilling hobby, and I hope you will too.

101 Art Destinations in the U.S.: Where Art Lives Coast to Coast by Owen Phillips

This is an exciting book. Before discussing why, however, I’d like to give a shout out to Ridpath Club for providing this title in loving memory of their friend and former clubmate, Martha Fowles, who loved art and loved to travel. We’re happy to have the opportunity to share Ms. Fowles love of art and travel with our library patrons via this title.

101 Art Destinations in the U.S.: Where Art Lives Coast to Coast by Owen Phillips is a superb travel guide for anyone and everyone who cares about art. Admittedly, I briefly considered writing about something other than a travel guide for this review, in light of our current circumstances, but no doubt many of you, like me, are experiencing wanderlust. Plus, many of the destinations Phillips includes have a large online presence, so you can peruse digital collections and take virtual tours.

I appreciate that Phillips took a regional approach in the organization of this book: Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, Midwest, South Central, Mountain, Southwest, and Pacific Coast and Hawaii. Organizing the destinations regionally rather than by type or some other method seems the most thoughtful approach.

Within each region, the destinations are further arranged by state. Thus, the next time you’re visiting Aunt Sally in Texas (South Central region) or attending a conference in Utah (Mountain region), you can easily flip to that section of the book and explore art destinations in that area.

Phillips introduces each of his 101 entries with a beautiful, colorful photograph, either of the destination itself or one of its exhibits, the name and address of each location, a well-written brief history and description of each destination, and information about nearby points-of-interest.

For example, if you’re visiting the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, NY, you might stop by the nearby LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton to take in the sculpture gardens, which are comprised of pieces by Buckminster Fuller, Yoko Ono, de Kooning, and others.

Another pleasurable feature of this title is that it offers a variety of destinations, such as houses, memorials, museums, parks, studios, etc., as well as represents an array of types of visual art, such as architecture, ceramics, painting, public art, sculpture, and more.

In addition to being an expertly arranged art-destinations travel guide, this book is, to state it simply, fun. It’s the sort of book that you can read from cover-to-cover or just the sections pertinent to your travel plans. My favorite way to read it is to open it at random and explore whichever entry I’m presented with.

This read-at-random approach led me to The John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, FL, which began in the 1930s. Their collections are comprised of artworks from all eras and all continents, many of which can be viewed online at ringling.org.

To be honest, I cannot recommend this book enough. In fact, I’m acquiring a copy for my personal library. Not only it useful for traveling and armchair traveling alike, but it’s a nice conversation piece and an interesting coffee table book, if smaller than most.

Finally, I leave you with some of my favorite art destinations mentioned in the book that I highly recommend exploring online and, if possible, in person when they reopen: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR; the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, OK; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO; and The Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, OH.

Take care and, as always, happy reading.

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence

Librarians love books. We love the smell and the feel of books. We love the weight of knowledge that you feel just holding a book in your hands. But sometimes, you find a book that just makes you want to throw it against a wall. Or bury it in your yard. Or – fellow librarians, cover your eyes – set that book on fire.

In “Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks,” librarian Annie Spence writes letters to books that have left an impression on her (both good and bad).  From “Matilda” to “The Goldfinch” to “Cornzapoppin’!: Popcorn Recipes and Party Ideas for All Occasions” – Annie has read them all, and she has feelings.

Annie’s letters are well-written and approachable, she mourns her inability to get through “Anna Karenina” and sheds light on the unhealthy relationship at the center of “The Giving Tree.” Each letter is composed like a love letter, or a break-up letter in some cases, and is signed with Annie’s signature. Reading this book feels like reading someone’s personal, and very unusual reading journal.

These letters are hilarious, but also ridiculously informative. If you want to know what series is loved by both semi-truck drivers and precocious children bored of the books in the Children’s Room, Annie can help with that (it’s Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series).

Annie Spence is a master of a skill essential to library work called “reader’s advisory.” It is skill all about being able to understand and create connections between books. When a patron comes into a library looking for what to read next, we have been trained to help you find something else you will probably enjoy. Annie Spence is here – in book form – to help you find your new favorite books.

Annie is also ready if you need some advice for your life, not just what to read but also Excuses to Tell Your Friends So You Can Stay Home With Your Books (page 177) or Turning Your Lover into a Reader (page 205) – if you find that your significant other is just not that into books.

Reading this book feels like talking to a friend, the reader feels very connected to Annie and her experiences reading books. You can tell just how much she loves reading – and it makes you want to expand your own reading horizons. If nothing else, pick it up so you can truly understand how voracious readers feel about the library from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (page 163).

If you look forward to reading these book reviews that we at the Joplin Public Library provide every week, then I heartily recommend that you give “Dear Fahrenheit 451” a try.

Find in Catalog

Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma and Manga Claus: The Blade of Kringle written by Nathaniel Marunas, illustrated by Erik Craddock

One of the things I like best about the holiday season are the stolen moments of quiet amidst the hustle and bustle–lovely, little gifts of reading or listening time when least expected, so I try to have a book of some sort at hand.  Since Thanksgiving weekend, I’ve already managed to squeeze in some titles that were on my hold list. Here are two quick (and vastly different) reads I’ve recently enjoyed and am excited to share with you.

I anxiously awaited Haben Girma’s autobiography after watching a segment on C-SPAN2’s Book TV this fall.  Her interview with host Peter Slen was engaging and entertaining, pulling me in with fascinating stories sprinkled with her great sense of humor.  Her book, Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law, did not disappoint.

Girma, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Eritrea and Ethiopia, grew up in Oakland, California.  She is a graduate of Harvard Law School who currently advocates for people with disabilities. She is an avid ballroom dancer, has climbed icebergs, helped build a school in Mali, surfs and kayaks, has traveled extensively, has pioneered an accessible communication system, and has spoken at the White House.  She also happens to be deafblind.

Haben (pronounced “ ‘Ha’ like ‘ha-ha’ and ‘ben’ like ‘Benjamin’ ”) is full of adventures and insights.  Girma, in her early thirties, describes her journey navigating cultures–American and Eritrean and Ethiopian, inclusionary and exclusionary–with warmth, passion, and wit.  Her voice clearly comes through with confidence and delight.

Biographies are one of my favorite genres because I get to experience the world from different perspectives, meeting interesting people on the page even if I never have the opportunity in person.  Nowhere near the end of her story, Haben Girma already has plenty of insight to offer. In addition to her travels and accomplishments, she shows what it takes to maneuver in a world designed for others, to carve out a space for daily life.  She leads by example and by thoughtful suggestions, inviting all of us to consider ways to open accessibility for people with disabilities.

Charming and astute, Haben Girma’s autobiography is an enjoyable read and a valuable one.  I can’t wait to find out the rest of her story.

What happens when you combine a disgruntled elf, hordes of teddy bears fueled by evil magic, and an author’s obsession with samurai movies?  You get, Manga Claus: The Blade of Kringle, written by Nathaniel Marunas and illustrated by Erik Craddock.  Yes, Virginia, there is a Manga Claus.  He exists as certainly as honor and loyalty and tinsel.  He wields a pair of skillfully forged samurai blades, defending Christmas from threats internal and external and coming to the rescue as surely as he delivers toys every year.

Fritz the elf resents being assigned to the laundry instead of Santa’s workshop.  In a fit of rage with his fist raised to the sky, (“I’ll show him what I can do–I’ll show them all!!!”) Fritz uses an evil spirit to animate a nutcracker in a plot to sideline the workshop.  One thing leads to another, and the evil escapes to create an army of ninja teddy bears bent on destruction. Thanks to his katana and his wakizashi, Santa transforms into Manga Claus and saves the day.

The charmingly cheesy text pairs fantastically with Erik Craddock’s action-packed, blockish-yet-expressive art in shades of red, grey, and black.  (I got a distinct classic Cartoon Network vibe from it.) This slim graphic novel moves quickly yet unveils additional visual details with every read.  It begs to be made into an animated short! It’s a delightful, campy romp that is not designed for people who take Santa seriously.  This is a great title for teens as well as graphic novel fans and folks whose favorite Christmas movies are action flicks.

I can’t wait for the other books on my hold list to come in.  Who knows what treasures will appear before the year is out! If you would like to see what titles the library offers or to place an item on reserve, take a look at our website http://www.joplinpubliclibrary.org/ and click on “Search Catalog”.  Library staff are available to help whether you stop by or give us a call at 417-623-7953.  Happy reading!

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!

A Pair of Infographic Eye Candies

Biographic Austen by Sophie Collins

Seeing Science: An Illustrated Guide to the Wonders of the Universe by Iris Gottlieb

Summer’s heat and humidity have cooked my brain, and no matter how much I’d like to lounge around immersed in a giant, juicy, beach read I find myself unable to keep one going. Picture books to the rescue!  Adults need picture books, too, no matter their intended audience. Picture books for grown-ups are nothing new and are easy to find–titles about decorating, photography, travel, etc., in non-fiction plus loads of graphic novels and comics.

Book-length infographics are the new kids on the block. Like their stand-alone relatives, they primarily use images (charts, graphs, illustrations) to relay information and provide a digestible view of a complex topic. The images are often colorful and can be hand-drawn or computer-generated. Accompanying text can range from very light to paragraph-length captions. The visual presentation is as artistic as it is informative.

Biographic Austen by Sophie Collins is a great example of this new-ish genre. It displays Jane Austen’s life and literary career in engaging, sometimes whimsical, pictures; it also places her in context with political, economic, social, and literary events of her day.  Collins skillfully uses contemporary typeface and design elements to pull back the curtain on Regency-era life. In “Who Drives What?”, she outlines horse-drawn transportation used by various Austen characters by brief definition and a comparison to automobiles. (No surprise that Sense and Sensibility’s Mr. Willoughby drove a single-seat curricle, “Like a Porsche!”). “Plots of Persuasion” is a jaunty flow chart in muted pinks and greens that follows the final chapters of Persuasion’s final version and first draft (now in the British Library) point by point. “Austen’s Laptop” shows writing tools she would have used–lap desk, quill pen, paper–including a recipe for homemade ink.

Give this visual biography of Jane Austen to a Janeite of your acquaintance or to someone just introduced to her novels; this is a book for older teens and adults or for younger teens who absolutely love the topic. Biographic Austen is part of the “Great Lives in Graphic Form” series of Ammonite Press–several of which the library owns (including Biographic Bowie, a must for David Bowie fans).

Iris Gottlieb puts a hand-drawn, text-laden twist on the infographic in her book, Seeing Science: An Illustrated Guide to the Wonders of the Universe. A citizen scientist, Gottlieb created her book “to open up the world of complex science with art and metaphor and storytelling”. She divides her work into sections focusing on life science, earth science, and physical science. Each section offers a variety of topics presented in two-page spreads. She serves whimsy at every turn from subject choice to section titles to illustrations. Her text is clear, concise, and solid.

In “How Food Is Preserved: Eight Ways to Eat Fish Later”, she straightforwardly presents the hows and whys of chemistry’s role in food preservation while she jazzes up the entry with colorful, amusing depictions of preserved fish. I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence, but her drawings of a fish head in a Hoover (vacuum-sealed) and a fish lollipop (sugar-cured) are a hoot!  Gottlieb’s dry wit winds its way through the book as in “Vacuums: Creating Nothingness, Then Filling It With Dog Hair”, “Glaciation: As Explained By A Snickers”, and “Ferns: Introverts of the Forest Floor”. (Yes, it sounds odd. No, this is not a spoof. Read the book and see for yourself.) My favorite entry is “Measuring pH: In A Cabinet of Gross Liquids”. A drawing of shelves holding jars of different liquids sits on the right-hand page. The left-hand page holds the key to the mystery of the jars. Gottlieb defines pH and explains how the pH scale is structured. Along the top is a rainbow-colored pH scale. A box down the side of the page lists the contents of each jar in the previously-mentioned drawing with the contents color-coded according to the pH scale, so water appears in the bright green assigned to neutral pH while battery acid is written in the bright red reserved for the most acidic substances and drain cleaner shows the deep purple of the most basic end of the scale. She’s included illustrated definitions of the word “mole” at the end of the entry, thereby clearing up the perennial confusion around this chemistry term.

Seeing Science is loads of sassy, scientific fun. It’s a great way to dip into science basics or to clarify scientific principles muddied by confusing textbooks. High schoolers and adults are a great audience for this book; it’s also suitable for middle school science fans who have had “the talk” about reproduction. The author writes, “It is my hope that this book makes science more accessible, less intimidating, and more magical to anyone who has a sense of wonder–and a sense of humor.” She certainly hits the mark!

A Non-Fiction Variety Pack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hot Young Widows Club: Lessons on Survival from the Front Lines of Grief by Nora McInerny

Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl

The Universe Explained: A Cosmic Q & A by Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees written and illustrated by Don Brown

Reading, like summer, can be random.  Days away from school and work open the door to the unexpected, allow the senses to notice what is hidden by everyday experience.  Surprises appear on the library shelves–new titles or those that have been circulating and were missed earlier.

I’ve stumbled upon some surprises this summer, both fruitful and not.  One was pleasant, an amazing story which lived up to its buzz. One, much to my disappointment, did not.  One snuck up on me, and one made me cry.

The Universe Explained: A Cosmic Q & A literally threw itself at my feet while walking past it in the lobby.  It’s 281 pages of awesomeness, asking and answering questions you’ve had about the cosmos and then some.  Questions are divided into chapters covering the seen (celestial bodies, space exploration, technology) and the unseen (alien life, black holes, the universe’s edge).  Each question is succinctly answered on its own page and accompanied by a full-color illustration. A helpful glossary in the back defines unfamiliar terms. Authors Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest have created an accessible book with plenty of eye-catching appeal.  Use it to answer your own questions or give it to a young person (upper elementary and older) with an appetite for reading or science or both. This would be a great title to explore as a family, sparking curiosity and discussion.

I’ve long enjoyed Ruth Reichl’s food writing; her heady descriptions of the culinary life have inspired and delighted me immensely.  I was excited to finally read her latest, Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir, covering her stint as Gourmet’s editor-in-chief and the magazine’s last days before being closed by Conde Nast.  I imagined a behind-the-scenes look at the Gourmet kitchens accompanied by lush descriptions of dishes created there, and that’s the outcome…sort of.  The book is long on magazine publishing and short on food. Reichl’s normally unhurried pace and rich description take a back seat to what sometimes feels like a breathless recitation of industry names and events by an avowed outsider trying to find her place in that world.  This is more a case of managed expectations on my part than an indictment of her writing quality. Save Me the Plums does exactly what it claims–explores Reichl’s journey into the world of luxury publishing, keeping her wit and outlook intact.  To explore what gems she has to offer, start with Reichl’s earlier memoirs or her amusing journey as the New York Times restaurant critic then come back to the rest of the story.

Don Brown has a talent for telling difficult stories using spare, strong words and pictures.  His non-fiction graphic novels have garnered acclaim and made award lists; more importantly, they engage readers and open them to experiences near and far.  Brown’s text and art are like a good movie soundtrack which doesn’t call attention to itself but lets the story take the spotlight. The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees is no exception.  It combines thorough research with first-hand accounts to track the plight of people fleeing war and death.  The art–pen and ink with digital paint–conveys struggle and desperation in watercolor greys and sepia tones.  The few bright spots are oranges and reds of explosions. Seemingly simplistic, the illustrations and spare text pack are moving.  Brown includes background information, research notes, and a bibliography at the end. Give this to teens and adults with an interest in current events or history or start a conversation with a teen who may have only heard of this in passing.  Also, try Brown’s other acclaimed graphic novels for teens exploring the Dust Bowl and Hurricane Katrina.

Reading Nora McInerny’s book The Hot Young Widows Club: Lessons on Survival from the Front Lines of Grief knocked me for a loop.  I haven’t cried that hard over a book since Where the Red Fern Grows in the 5th grade.  This is a 91-page grief memoir packing a gigantic, emotional gut punch.  It’s also a life preserver for the bereaved and a handy tool for those who aren’t at the moment.  (Because, as the author points out, “Here is one important thing we all have in common: literally everyone we know and love will die.”)  McInerny experienced a miscarriage plus the deaths of her father and husband within 7 weeks of each other. Afterward, she and another woman founded the titular club; along the way, she’s gathered observations, advice, and encouragement into a valuable resource for all of us.  McInerny’s forthright, concise style is packed with humor and sass. She offers support, space, and survival tips to those who are grieving and concrete advice to those who want to help but don’t know how. If you are grieving or know someone who is, try this book–it has so much to offer.