Staff Picks

 Comment on a review by clicking on its title. You can also write your thoughts about any book on our Facebook Wall. When you're in the Library, be sure to browse the "Staff Picks" display for additional staff suggestions.

You can still access reviews from pre-September 2012 for Adults and Children.

When Thunder Comes

Poems for Civil Rights Leaders (2013)
When Thunder Comes

 

"I was a typist, nothing more. I loved my life, I hated war.

But it was war that stole from me my job, my life, serenity."

This poem, "The Captive", is about Mitsuye Endo, a woman who protested the removal of her civil rights during World War II when all Japanese-Americans were moved into relocation camps.   All of the poems in J. Patrick Lewis' book are about civil rights activists, and are illustrated by five different illustrators.  Most of the illustrations consist of muted tones, but a few are bright and colorful. People honored with poems include Josh Gibson, Emmett Till's mother, Harvey Milk, Nelson Mandela, and Jackie Robinson.   Author's notes at the end of the book fill in details about who each person is and how they made a difference. 

Publisher's Weekly and Booklist gave this book starred reviews, and I give it high praise as well.

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Jane Eyre & Wuthering Heights

A Counting Primer (2012) & A Weather Primer (2013)
Jane Eyre
Wuthering Heights

 

The Little Miss Bronte series, part of the BabyLit book series published by Gibbs Smith, are an elegant way to introduce the youngest child to the world of classical literature.  Jane Eyre is a counting primer, and counts drawings, trees, pearls, and books, with quotes interspersed, such as "this book I had again and again perused with delight".

Wuthering Heights is a weather primer, so for breezy, the quote is "the weather was sweet and warm" and for stormy we read, "the storm came rattling over the Heights in full fury." 

Oliver's art is charming in its complicated simplicity.  These books are first purchases for fans of the originals who just can't wait to share their love of the classics with their child.

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I’m your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen

2012

From the very beginning, the persona of Leonard Cohen has been somewhat of a contradiction. He’s a gentleman but also a ladies man and he was fond of saying he was “born in a suit” in Montreal 78 years ago.  Simmons has written a comprehensive account of the charismatic Cohen who is sometimes considered the Canadian Bob Dylan. Along the way, Cohen mingled with the star folk singers of the day including, Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins. One of his albums was produced by Phil Spector, a harrowing experience. Cohen was born a Jew but he spent several years in a Zen Center in Los Angeles and he became an ordained Zen Buddhist monk.
His best-known song came late in his career. His masterpiece, Hallelujah, appeared on the Shrek soundtrack and it was covered by nearly 200 musicians. Cohen finally gained the recognition he deserved. Fascinating story.

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The Song of Roland

(2012)
Song of Roland cover

I love Paul. I love the black-and-white, curvy casual style in which his stories are illustrated. I would learn to read French if I were to learn that the Paul stories would no longer be translated into English. I've read Rabaliati's other semi-autobiographical stories, and have enjoyed following Paul's life in Canada from his summer job as a camp counselor to moving into his first place with his fiance in the city to his becoming a father. Rabagliati adds a new dimension to Paul's story by focusing on his in-laws, with emphasis on his wife's father, Roland.

The story opens with Paul and family gathering with his wife's two sisters and their families at his parents-in-law's home, and Rabagliati captures little truths in this reunion that will bring smiles to readers as they identify with the experience. There's the burst of joy and excitement at seeing everyone followed by an evening of first finding a place to sleep and then attempting to sleep through the night in a basement filled with adults and children.

As I read this opening and felt it ring true to my own experience, I reveled in the connection I felt to this story and to its author. Thus engaged in the story, I read on, not expecting to repeatedly experience such a deep connection. Any reader whose watched a loved one grow old and weak with age and disease is likely to experience a similar connection.

Paul's father-in-law Roland is diagnosed with prostate cancer, prompting a move from that home where the family gathered early in the book to an apartment in the city. Paul joins Roland for a walk (and a secret, forbidden cigarette), and is treated to a brief biography of his father-in-law, from his youth to his retirement and terminal diagnosis. Eventually, Roland's wife is struggling to take care of him by herself and the family decides to move him to hospice. Roland has company from the family every day, but his condition deteriorates and he gradually becomes less able to communicate with them. Inevitably, Roland dies.

I was reminded of my grandfather's final months in hospice, and I appreciate the realism with which Rabagliati infuses his story--from the sad moments to the unexpectedly hilarious ones so needed while families grieve the loss of one who has yet to die. I recommend this story to anyone (whether they've read any previous Paul stories or not) and I believe that it has the power to help those grieving similar losses.

I suppose I'm resorting to pleading here, but take an hour or so to read and enjoy this book, and then tell your friends about it. Paul and Rabagliati ought to be at least as well known as the Charlies Brown and Schultz, and better loved.

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Act One

An Autobiography (1959)
Act One

Moss Hart was an enormously successful playwright (“You Can’t Take It With You,” “The Man Who Came to Dinner”), screenwriter (“A Star is Born”), and stage director (“My Fair Lady,” “Camelot”), but this classic memoir deals not with those masterworks, but with his beginnings.  It tells the tale of his impoverished New York childhood and the steps leading to his first success, a collaboration with the legendary George S. Kaufmann.  This is one of the great memoirs of the era and a must read for anyone interested in theater.

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Thirteen Reasons Why

2007
Thirteen Reasons Why

You can’t stop the future,

you can’t rewind the past

the only way to learn the secret

…is to press play.

 

          Clay Jensen returns home from high school and finds a mysterious package waiting for him.  Inside there are thirteen cassette tapes made by Hannah Baker, his high school crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.  The package was sent with the tapes and a highlighted map of the town so the people on the tapes can relive her last days.  Those that have been chosen to receive a copy of the tapes are warned that they must pass it on to the next otherwise a second copy of the tapes would be leaked to the entire school.  If that happens some of the students could face ridicule or even jail time.  Clay’s journey to understand the whole story of Hannah’s death is a psychological ride that leaves you thinking about all the “what ifs” that happen in life. 

          This story has an interesting dual narrative that moves back and forth between what Hannah and Clay are doing and thinking at the same time.  It can be a bit confusing but that is what makes this book so interesting.  The story is a little dark but it is a fascinating journey that proves how everything that you do or don't do has a consequence.  

          Universal Films has bought the rights to the movie and is currently in the planning stages.  Selena Gomez has been cast to play the lead role of Hannah Baker. 

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The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door

(2013)
The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door

Oh I loved, loved, LOVED this book! Celia Door, aka Celia the Dark, is just starting high school after a horrific end to 8th grade...she loses her best (and only) friend, her parents have separated and the school mean girls, Sandy & Mandy, have targeted her to be their next prey. Needless to say, Celia is NOT looking forward to 9th grade. Then she meets Drake. Drake is the new kid, the super good looking, ultra-cool New Yorker who apparently hasn't received the memo that Celia is "Weird" with a capital "W" and the two develop a wonderful friendship.

Of course, there is A LOT more going on here, but I don't want to give anything away. There is a lot of humor and the characters are very realistic teenagers. In fact, the only thing I didn't like is the neatly packaged "After School Special" ending. Mostly, this book was a delight and I would like to comment on the amazingly perfect cover. So many YA covers don't capture the essence of their book --- this one does just that.

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Gulp

Adventures on the Alimentary Canal (2013)
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, by Mary Roach

I had long heard of Mary Roach's titles but never tried one. Gulp fell into my lap when a coworker heard about it and placed it on hold for me, figuring I would like it. I can see why Mary Roach's writing is so popular: she mixes great, science-y information with a fantastic sense of humor that is typically presented in tongue-in-cheek or dry asides as well as side-splitting footnotes. Gulp explores the digestive and excretory systems and some of the little-known research and researchers working in these areas. If you like science and also think a book like "What's Your Poo Telling You" is funny, chances are good that you will love this, too. I laughed and laughed and cringed and laughed.

 

Mary Roach's other titles are

She is also editor of The Best American Science and Nature Writing, 2011

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The Apple Orchard

2013

Tess Delaney makes a living recovering precious artifacts and returning them to their rightful owners. Little does she know that when she reunites an heirloom necklace, stolen by the Nazis, to Annalise Winther, she has set in motion events that will turn her world on its end. Tess’s story unravels on an apple orchard located in the lush and beautiful backdrop of the Sonoma Valley. It won’t take long for the simple country lifestyle to begin winning over this workaholic, but will a loving family and a promising romance be enough to convince Tess to stay…?

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The Burgess Boys

(2013)

Family.  Few words evoke more emotion.  In "The Burgess Boys", Elizabeth Strout introduces a trio of siblings who wear the scars of unpleasant childhood memories.  Jim, Susan, and Bobby manage to keep the evidence of old wounds well hidden from each other by living relatively separate lives.  There exists an obvious pecking order enhanced by sarcasm and tainted with a profound sadness permeating all areas of their lives.  Change is put into motion when a nephew's unwise decision brings them together to solve a family crisis and confront the truth about the past.   

Jim, the revered brother who has attained a notoriety of sorts, leaves the small, picturesque Shirley Falls, Maine for the vastness and opportunity in New York City. Bobby soon follows so that he may continue living in his brother's shadow.  Meanwhile, Susan plants her timid roots in their hometown of Shirley Falls where immigration is changing the environment and giving rise to a growing racism.   

The Burgess family embarks upon a journey towards self discovery and personal growth.  A secret once held close is revealed, relationships are forever altered, and wounds of the heart are healed.  The three face the reality that though impossible to change life left behind, it is possible to change the direction of the future with its moments waiting to be enjoyed.    

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Significant Objects

"100 extraordinary stories about ordinary things. A literary and economic experiment." 2012
Significant Objects
Significant Objects (image in catalog)

I picked this book off the shelf without knowing the back story on it. I thought it odd that is was in the fiction section, as it seemed to be a book that might be connected with Antiques Roadshow.  I opened it up to a page with a wine glass that had a Women & Infants logo. Wondering what the story was behind that I started reading and found myself pulled into a story about  family lies, abandonment, reunion, understanding and forgiveness. This, along with some great wine reviews. All on a single page!  (Tasting Notes, by Jeff Turrentine). Next I started reading a description of a pink horse toy with marabou feathers for its mane and tail. Whoa-within the page, there was child neglect, an addict mother and the death of her daughters, or did the lady with the pink hair take them somewhere better? She remains haunted by all things pink. (Pink Horse, by Kate Bernheimer).

The premise behind this book is that stories give objects value. The editors (Joshua Glenn & Rob Walker) collected items from garage sales and thrift shops and gave them to various authors (some more well known than others) to create stories about them.  They then put the items on e-bay, using the stories as descriptions. They were upfront about the descriptions being fictional. All of the items sold for more than they had been purchased for, many significantly more.

Some reviewed this book as a cynical marketer’s scam. Ad Week pointed out that objects can obviously have their value increased through a robust back story-it’s called advertising. But what was for sale in this instance was more than just the objects, it was the stories themselves. One could “own” a story written by a favorite author, along with the object that inspired it.

While I feel no pull to buy any of the objects, I am enjoying the stories. The hard part is taking my time to savor them, when what I want to do is keep reading through to the end. As stated on NPR, what is fun about this book is finding magic in unexpected places.

 

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