Category Archives: Book Reviews

June is Zoo and Aquarium Month

By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department

Celebrated annually during the month of June, National Zoo and Aquarium Month honors the role of zoos and aquariums in conservation, education, recreation, and research. The best way to celebrate National Zoo and Aquarium Month is obvious: Visit your local zoo or aquarium, of course! But if you can’t do that, here’s a list of books to bring all the fun of the zoo right into your living room.

Worms for Breakfast: How to Feed a Zoo by Helaine Becker
(J 636.0889 BEC)
Feeding time is one of the most popular events at zoos. But what do different animals eat? How much food to they need to stay healthy? And where do zookeepers get all that food anyway? Packed with facts from experts at zoos and aquariums, Worms for Breakfast answers all these questions and more! And just in case reading about feeding time makes you hungry, this book also includes recipes for meals like eucalyptus leaf pesto, kelp tank goulash, and mealworm mush.

Bridge to the Wild: Behind the Scenes at the Zoo by Caitlin O’Connell
(J 636.088 O’CON)
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work in a zoo? Written by a real animal researcher with special behind-the-scenes access, Bridge to the Wild goes inside Zoo Atlanta. Readers learn about the people who work with the animals and discover exactly how zoos help world populations of animals.

 

My Visit to the Aquarium by Aliki
(J 597.0074 ALI)
Take a trip to the aquarium in My Visit to the Aquarium! Based on several specific aquariums, this book follows a young boy through a kelp forest, a muggy tropical rainforest, a coral reef, and other various exhibits.

Fur, Fins, and Feathers: Abraham Dee Bartlett and the Invention of the Modern Zoo by Cassandre Maxwell
(J 92 BARTLETT)
When Abraham Dee Bartlett was growing up during the early 1800s, there were no zoos, only indoor menageries, where animals were kept inside small, bare cages with no room to explore and nothing to play with. This picture book biography tells young readers how Bartlett became superintendent of the London Zoo and dramatically improved conditions to ensure that all animals could be happy and healthy.

What’s New? The Zoo!: A Zippy History of Zoos by Kathleen Krull
(J 590.73 KRU)
Beginning 4,400 years ago, this title takes readers on a journey throughout history and around the globe tracing the history of zoos.

A Day at a Zoo by Sarah Harrison
(J 590.73 HAR)
In eight action-packed scenes from the same view, A Day at a Zoo invites readers to see what happens during a full day at a busy zoo. Watch as zookeepers wrangle a new okapi, a gibbon escapes its enclosure, and schoolchildren hide in the meerkat pen.

A One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Quinn Porter was an absentee father. He knows it and his ex-wife reminds him of it often as well.  He didn’t get to know his son well before his early and untimely death.  He assuages his grief (and guilt) by continuing his son’s Cub Scout responsibility of helping out Ona Viktus, an 104-year old Lithuanian immigrant.  Quinn learns about his son as he helps her and becomes involved in her life.  The young boy had to interview a remarkable person for school and he chose Ona.  You learn about her life in interspersed chapters.  Quinn grows as a person and Ona remembers what she thought she never knew.  A quiet revelatory book.

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Nettie Lonesome is a half-breed orphan raised by unloving caretakers who use her as a servant. When a stranger attacks her, she defends herself with a stick.  To her surprise, he turns into black sand.  More surprising, she is now aware of the real world full of monsters and evil.

So she sets off to find a new home, and maybe find friends along the way. The setting was interesting and Nettie is truly one of a kind.  A great pick for those wanting to read books with multi-racial characters.

June is African-American Music Appreciation Month

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

Originally decreed as Black Music Month by then-president Jimmy Carter in June 1979, the designation was changed in 2009 to African-American Music Appreciation Month. In his 2016 proclamation, former president Barack Obama stated that African-American music and musicians have helped our country “ . . . to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice, and to defend our country’s enduring promise of freedom and opportunity for all.” Hence, I bring to you in no particular order, a great selection of books from Williamson County Public Library Children’s Department celebrating “Lady Day’s” soaring vocals, the Motown Sound, Bob Marley’s plaintive ballads, Jimi Hendrix’s groundbreaking guitar playing, and much more.

First on the list for today’s magical musical journey is Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through The Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney (J 781.6440 PIN) “You ready, child? Let’s go.” Thus begins this beautifully written account of young performers who were catalysts for change in American music, and along with it, a cultural revolution. The 1960s were exciting and often turbulent times. For Berry Gordy, the man who has been largely credited with creating what would come to be known as “the Motown Sound,” it all started with an $800 loan and a vision of greatness. The year was 1959, and Gordy was on the brink of something amazing, something that would have far-reaching influence on music for decades to come. Drawing upon the talents of his family and local performers, Gordy created a record label for black musicians such as Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Martha Reeves, and Diana Ross, just to name a few. The rest, as they say, is history.

Next up on the recommended reading list for African-American Music Appreciation Month is Jimi: Sounds Like A Rainbow written by Gary Golio and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (J 92 HENDRIX).   A stylishly written and illustrated story of the phenomenally talented James Marshall Hendrix, known to the world as Jimi, who departed this earth at the way-too-soon age of 27. His legacy lives on decades later, and his groundbreaking music continues to inspire and electrify fans of all ages.

Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday And The Power Of A Protest Song by Gary Golio (J 782.4216 GOL). At the time of her death from liver and heart failure in 1959 at the age of 44, Billie Holiday (nee Eleanora Fagan) was heralded as one of the greatest female vocalists and jazz singers of all time. Her best-selling record and signature song “Strange Fruit” challenged the attitudes of racism in America and was an important milestone in what would become the American civil rights movement.

No reading list about African-American music would be complete without mention of the excellent books about black musicians in the “Who Is/Who Was?” series, which features titles such as Who was Bob Marley? (J 92 MAR), Who Was Louis Armstrong? (J 92 ARM), Who Was Stevie Wonder? (J 92 WON), and Who Was Michael Jackson? (J 92 JAC). The books in this series feature whimsical illustrations and side notes about the subject, and are so much fun to read . Check ‘em out! (OK, that’s my one and only pun for this blog, I swear.)

                   

Trombone Shorty by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews (J 788.9316 AND) is a delightful, picturesque story of how a talented young boy from New Orleans didn’t always have the money to buy an instrument, but he did have the dream to play music. Plucked from a crowd by none other than the legendary Bo Diddley and allowed to play his trombone on stage, he was then inspired to form his own band. Today, Andrews is a frequent performer at the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the place where he got his first break.

Last but not least on my list of recommendations is Bob Marley: The Life Of A Musical Legend by Gary Jeffrey (J 92 MARLEY). Part biography, part graphic novel, this very cool book celebrates famed Jamaican musician Bob Marley. His body ravaged by cancer, Marley departed this earthly realm at the young age of 36, but his music and his message of peace continues to inspire people all over the world.


As always, the opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author alone, and not representative of any other WCPL employees. Ms. Parish can occasionally be overheard quoting Jimi Hendrix’s lyrics and belting out “Voodoo Chile,” but only when she’s home alone or behind the wheel of her car.

Rockin’ Reads For Kids

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

In honor of this year’s inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, here is a random assortment of rockin’ reads for the young, or young at heart.  In absolutely no discernable order:

Who Are The Rolling Stones? by Dana Meachen Rau  (J92 ROL)

Sanitized for your protection, this book chronicles the meteoric rise and unparalleled success, five decades later, of this author’s favorite band.  As this is a children’s book, none of the lurid details of the many (ahem) colorful incidents that earned The Stones their reputation as the bad boys of the British Invasion are present.  (Also worth reading in this engaging series of biographies for elementary and middle school-aged students:  Who Is Elton John?; Who Was Bob Marley? (to be published in June 2017);  Who Was Elvis Presley?;  Who Were The Beatles?; Who Was Michael Jackson?; and many more music-related titles.)

Jimi:  Sounds Like A Rainbow by Gary Golio and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (J92 HEN)

A beautifully written and illustrated story of the phenomenally talented musician James Marshall Hendrix, later known to the world as Jimi, who departed this earthly realm entirely too soon at the age of 27.  His legacy lives on through his music, and his influence continues to inspire and electrify fans of all ages.

Hello, I’m Johnny Cash by G. Neri and illustrated by A.G. Ford (J 92 CASH)

Those four simple words were how this man with the deep, soulful, often otherworldly voice would start his shows after “I Walk The Line” became the number one country song in America, and the anthem for how this once dirt-poor man from Arkansas wished to live his life.  Neri captures The Man in Black’s legend in free verse, and Ford’s lush, detailed paintings of the Southern backdrop of Cash’s life make this book one that will be enjoyed by children and adults alike.

Music Lab:  We Rock!  A Fun Family Guide For Exploring Rock Music History by Jason Hanley  (J 781.6609)

If an alien landed in your bedroom one night and tasked you with teaching him/her/it about Rock & Roll, it would be fortuitous if you had this sensational book close at hand.  Written by Jason Hanley, Ph.D., education director at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this book offers an introduction to some of the greatest songs in rock history, provides anecdotes about the artists and the social and historical events at the time the songs were written, and provides fun lab-style activities that begin with the basics of rock and move through the soul and punk genres, and then cover dance and new wave.  Best of all are the frozen-in-time photographs and the recommended set lists.  I totally have to throw the horns for this book. (Don’t know what that means?  Look it up.)

How The Beatles Changed The World by Martin W. Sandler  (J 782.4216 SAN)

When the Lads From Liverpool burst onto the music scene in the tumultuous decade known as The Sixties, they charmed and excited millions of fans the world over, and they ultimately transformed and transcended the rock genre.  This compendium of their rocketship ride to musical stardom contains hundreds of stunning photographs that capture the rich, beautiful history of The Beatles.

Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music That Changed The World by Robbie Robertson, Jim Guerinot, Sebastian Robertson and James Levine  (J 920 ROB)

Penned by 4 multitalented music industry veterans, this very cool volume would look right at home on anyone’s coffee table and includes 2 CDs with tracks from such legends as Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Marvin Gaye, and Hank Williams, to name just a few.  The book pays loving tribute to twenty-seven groundbreaking artists whose innovations and creations altered the music landscape for generations to come.

Strange Fruit:  Billie Holiday And The Power Of A Protest Song by Gary Golio (J 782.4216  GOL)

At the time of “Lady Day’s” death from liver and heart failure in 1959 at the age of 44, she was heralded as one of the greatest female vocalists and jazz singers of all time.  Her best-selling record and signature song “Strange Fruit” challenged the attitudes of racism in America and was an important milestone in what would become the civil rights movement.

What Was Woodstock? by Joan Holub  (J 781.6609 HOL)

Well, duh, Woodstock was the sweet little yellow bird who was Snoopy’s best friend.  Right?  Charles Schulz, creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip publicly acknowledged in several interviews during the 1970s that he named the bird after the music festival held at Max and MiriamYasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York, over three days in August of 1969.  (Artwork from the festival features a bird perched on the neck of a guitar.)  My favorite part of this clever little book is the page of “Sixties Slang.”  You dig?

Shake, Rattle & Roll:  The Founders of Rock & Roll by Holly George-Warren  (J 781.66 GEO)

A whimsically-illustrated introduction to 14 of rock & roll’s groundbreakers and earthshakers, such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, and more.  In the words of Chuck Berry:  “Hail, hail, rock & roll!”

Rock on with your bad selves, and happy reading–


As always, the opinions and viewpoints expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and in no way representative of WCPL, its employees, or their parents who may have shouted at them to “turn that infernal noise down!” at some point in their lives. To that end, you may have to speak up a bit when talking to the author, because she spent many hours next to a Marshall stack in her flaming youth, and last week.

Tolkien Reads Day

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

Every year on the Twenty-fifth of March the Tolkien Society holds a Tolkien Read Day. This is the day that marks the climactic moment in Professor Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. If you know enough to argue the vagaries of converting the Gondorion calendar or the Shire Reckoning into modern Gregorian calendars then you know enough about this already. The focus for this year for the Tolkien Society is “Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction”. Although, this is a very interesting topic for many students and fans of Tolkien’s work, I think it lacks appeal to the general reader. You can get too focused on the minutia of the true devotee’s passion and miss a chance to spread something you love to other readers, young and old alike.

My own journey through Middle Earth started when I was five and my dad started reading me The Hobbit. He really had no idea what he was starting. I’ve spread my love of these books to friends and family over the years. They’ve given me an appreciation for Tolkien’s work as well as many of the things that inspired him. Now it’s my turn to share with all of you the great experience of the depths of Tolkiana but I’m going to break it down for each type of reader.

For Kids:

For those of you who loved the books since the start of the fourth age and now want to pass along your passion to the hobbit girls and elflings in your life as well as those of you who have just refused to grow up, there are some great options. The best is a small beautifully illustrated book of Bilbo’s Last Song. It is a separate work and fairly spoiler free. You may also be interested in the books based on stories that Tolkien wrote for his children. Roverandom and Mr. Bliss are delightful stories that a creative father used to amuse and comfort his children and Tolkien’s collected Letters from Father Christmas are a great seasonal treat. If your children are interested in more of the author himself, there is the Tolkien volume of the classic Who Was… series.  In my opinion, however, nothing can beat just sitting down and reading The Hobbit. It’s a great read for later elementary or middle school readers and also a great story for parents to read to (or with) their kids. Not much of a reading family? Take the unabridged audio on your next car trip. It’s fun, exciting and completely lacking in content that will make you grab at the volume knob.

So you liked the movies:

The movies, while they have their detractors, were good. You’re the person who went to see them because of the hype, but never read the books. The best suggestion for you is to read the books. Yeah, you think you know what happens, and you do have a good amount of general plot, but there is so much more you missed. There are iconic scenes, wonderful characters, and exposition you’ve never even heard of (unless it’s from hearing one of the true believers complaining). Many people, who’ve read the books, read them again and enjoy them just the same as the first time so please give them a try. If however you’re one of those headstrong trailblazers who won’t walk the same path twice there are hundreds of imitators. Many fall utterly short, but there are a few standouts. For younger readers there are the works of Susan Cooper and Lloyd Alexander. Older readers may appreciate Terry Brooks Shannara series, Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar Saga novels, Juliet Marillier’s Seven Waters trilogy, or Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive series.

“I’ve read The Lord of the Rings”:

Tolkien fans are quick to discriminate between what they consider themselves to be and fans of The Lord of the Rings. Liking The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and Return of the King is not fan boy or fan girl territory, not anymore. Neither is enjoying more of Tolkien’s writing. In the last several years the Tolkien Estate has released many of the Professor’s previously unavailable or unpublished works. It began with The Silmarillion in 1977. This is the history of Bilbo, Gandalf and Aragorn’s world. It’s almost like a Middle Earth Iliad/Bible, and it reads like it. The stories are great, but the language and phraseology can put some readers off. If you like it, Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle Earth will please you as well.  The same can be said for The Children of Hurin and the forthcoming Beren and Luthien, although I have found The Children of Hurin to be easier to read than some of the others. Conversely, you could look at the professor’s more scholarly works like his attempts at interpreting King Arthur and the Nibelung with The Fall of Arthur and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun.  There are a few other titles like these that are more obscure, but this should keep you happy for a while.

The Tolkien Fanatic:

This isn’t for the people who memorized the Cirth runes or have a grammatically correct tattoo in Tengwar. It’s for the people who were in the last category and want to make the jump into true fandom. There are two camps here, the purists and the omnivores. For the purists we start with Karen Wynn Fonstad’s Atlas of Middle Earth. For visually oriented fans this is a must. It has maps, paths, climatology and floor plans. It’s mostly conjecture, but well researched conjecture.  Then we have the art books like Realms of Tolkien and Tolkien’s World which feature great artists’ rendition of scenes from Tolkien’s work, or better still The Art of the Lord of the Rings, which features Tolkien’s own drawings and water colors.

For the less discerning, or the more voracious, there are countless encyclopedias and guides, like J.E.A. Tyler’s Tolkien Companion, or books that interpret Tolkien and his works through any number of disciplines like politics with The Hobbit Party.

The must read for everybody here is The History of Middle Earth series. This is a twelve volume set of notes, back story, commentary and alternative takes on the stories you’ve come to love so far. These are not for the faint of heart; they are interesting, but the narrative repeats and is broken up.

The Tolkien Scholar:

This is the post doc of the Tolkien realm. These books are for people who hit fandom and come out the other side truly intellectually curious. You want to know where these books came from, who was the author and where are the roots of Middle Earth. The Story of Kulervo is the most recent item on the list and a work of Tolkien himself, but it is a fragment of a greater work, The Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. Much of Tolkien’s early inspiration came from here. Tolkien also did his own translation of Beowulf and wrote a commentary, The Monster and his Critics. Both are interesting and enlightening but the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf is interesting as well. The Prose and Poetic Eddas are fascinating and full of names you will recognize, from Thorin to Gandalf. For more on Tolkien the man you can see any of the wonderful biographies, but I especially recommend Tolkien and the Great War. The Inklings can give you a wonderful look into the friendship and collaboration of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and others.

Tolkien wrote, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” The same is true for delving into Tolkien’s writing. You may just nip round the corner or you may start a journey that lasts a lifetime.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department

Yep, it’s that time of year again! It’s time for shamrocks, pots of gold, green, and a tall Guinness. Okay, so that last one isn’t entirely appropriate for the whole family. Luckily, I have fourteen books perfect for celebrating with your kids on this St. Patrick’s Day!

That’s What Leprechauns Do by Eve Bunting (J E BUN)
As a storm approaches, three leprechauns get ready to go to work. Their job? Placing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, of course! “No mischief, no mischief along the way,” they chant. But they just can’t help themselves from pulling a few pranks because “that’s what leprechauns do.”

The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day by Natasha Wing (J E WIN)
In this Irish twist on “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” it’s the night before St. Patrick’s Day, and Tim and Maureen are awake setting traps for a leprechaun. The next morning, they’re shocked to find a leprechaun in their trap, but will they be able to find his gold?

St. Patrick’s Day by Gail Gibbons (J 394.268 GIB)
Introduce young ones to the origins of St. Patrick’s Day with this nonfiction picture book about the life and works of St. Patrick and the various ways the holiday is celebrated.

The Luckiest St. Patrick’s Day Ever! by Teddy Slater (J E SLA)
Follow the Leprechaun family on their favorite day of the year as celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a parade, dancing, music, and an Irish feast!

S is for Shamrock: An Ireland Alphabet by Eve Bunting (J 941.5 BUN)
From the Blarney Stone to fairy rings to shamrocks, take an A to Z tour of Ireland in this nonfiction title.

St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning by Eve Bunting (J E BUN)
Set in a village in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, Jamie, the youngest in his family, is too small to walk in the big parade. Disappointed, he wakes up early and sets out to prove them wrong.

Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato by Tomie dePaola (J E DEP)
In this Irish folktale, potato farmer Jamie O’Rourke—“the laziest man in all of Ireland”—convinces himself he’ll starve to death after his wife hurts her back doing all the household and garden chores. When Jamie catches a leprechaun who offers a magical potato seed instead of a pot of gold in exchange for his freedom, the resulting gigantic potato feeds the O’Rourkes and their village longer than imagined.

Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola (J E DEP)
In this nonfiction selection, readers are introduced to the life of St. Patrick and several different legends about him.

Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk by Gerald McDermott (J E MCD)
Tim O’Toole and his wife, Kathleen, are so poor that their neighbors avoid them, fearing their bad luck will rub off. When Tim goes out to find a job, he happens upon the “wee folk,” and they give him gifts to turn his luck around.

Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman (J CD E BAT)
The greedy leprechaun king has locked away all the luck in Ireland to keep it from the “big folk” who were soaking it all up. Unfortunately, he went too far, and Ireland suffered its worst luck ever through the potato famine. Thankfully, a young woman named Fiona is clever enough to outsmart the leprechaun king and restore luck to all of Ireland.

The Leprechaun’s Gold by Pamela Duncan Edwards (J E EDW)
In this Irish legend, two harpists—kind Old Pat and mean Young Tom—set off for a contest to determine the best harpist in all of Ireland. When greedy Young Tom realizes Old Pat is actually a better musician, he plots against his older counterpart, even going so far as to pluck the strings off poor Old Pat’s harp. However, Young Tom doesn’t plan on a leprechaun intervening on Old Pat’s behalf.

Finn McCool and the Great Fish by Eve Bunting (J E BUN)
Finn McCool is the “best-hearted man that ever walked on Ireland’s green grass.” But for all his strength, courage, and goodness, there’s one thing Finn lacks: he’s just not smart. When a wise man in a nearby village tells Finn about a red salmon with the wisdom of the world, he sets out to catch the fish and discover the “secret of wisdom.”

Brave Margaret by Robert D. San Souci (J E SAN)
When a ship carrying a handsome prince arrives in the harbor, Margaret seizes her chance to see the world. But soon she is faced with storms and sea serpents, and eventually finds herself held captive by an elderly sorceress who refuses to let her go unless she can defeat the evil giant at a nearby castle. When her prince is killed fighting the giant, Margaret discovers she is the intended champion of an enchanted sword.

St. Patrick’s Day by Anne Rockwell (J E ROC)
Join Mrs. Madoff’s class as they learn about St. Patrick’s Day traditions!

So read a book this St. Patrick’s Day! After all, isn’t knowledge is better than all the pots of gold at the end of the rainbow?

Southern Women Writers Serve up Some Fantastic Fare!

By Cindy Schuchardt, Reference Department

Mmm, Mmm…

March is National Women’s History Month, an excellent time to recognize the talents and achievements of the South’s female writers. Through the years, Southern women writers have cooked up some amazing literary works, often focusing attention on relationships and families and advocating for gender, racial and socioeconomic equity.  And of course, southern food is key in Southern life and culture and is often used as an important tool for these writers. Won’t you join me for this literary feast?

Appetizer:

Delta Wedding, by Eudora Welty

In Delta Wedding, Eudora Welty examines the complex relationships of the many individuals in the Fairchild family.  The story is set in rural Mississippi during the 1920s, at the family’s plantation, Shellmound.  The novel focuses on a wedding between the family’s 17-year-old daughter, Dabney Fairchild, and Troy, the caretaker for the plantation. From the rehearsal dinner, to the wedding feast, to the post-wedding picnic, Welty gives us Southern cuisine aplenty.  As the Southern women in the story cook together and talk together, we learn much about them, their values, and their commitment to family.

Entrée:

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, by Fannie Flagg

From the first three words on the cover of Fannie Flagg’s book, our mouths are watering.  All through the book, food is important.  The novel tells the story of a friendship between the elderly Mrs. Ninny Threadgoode and the middle-aged and discouraged Evelyn Couch.  When Evelyn’s husband visits his mother at the Rose Terrace Nursing Home, Evelyn instead visits with Mrs. Threadgoode in the lobby.  She returns time after time.

As the two women talk, Mrs. Threadgoode reveals the story of Idgie and Ruth, two women who opened a café together in Whistle Stop, Alabama, back in the 1930s.  In a setting fraught with poverty and racial tension, Idgie makes the café food available to everyone – although she is unfairly required to feed her black friends outside the back door.

The Whistle Stop food was home-cooked, nourishing and comforting, based on recipes from Sipsey, a black woman who had been working in the Threadgoode house since she was a girl.

“Even at eleven they say she could make the most delicious biscuits and gravy, cobbler fried chicken, turnip greens and black-eyed peas,” recalls Mrs. Threadgoode to Evelyn.  “And her dumplings were so light they would float in the air and you’d have to catch ’em to eat ’em.”

A sharp contrast is provided by the pre-packaged snack foods and vending machine fare that Evelyn eats and shares with Mrs. Threadgoode.  We see that Evelyn has an unhealthy relationship with food, gnawing through dozens of candy bars in one sitting and then obsessing about being overweight.

Later in the novel, Flagg depicts a heightened understanding in Evelyn, who prepares a lovely dinner for her friend:

“When Mrs. Threadgoode saw what she had on her plate, she clapped her hands, as excited as a child on Christmas. There before her was a plate of perfectly fried green tomatoes and fresh cream-white corn, six slices of bacon, with a bowl of baby lima beans on the side and four huge light and fluffy buttermilk biscuits.”

Dessert:

Hallelujah!  The Welcome Table, by Maya Angelou

I saved a book by one of my favorite writers, Maya Angelou, for our final course. While best known for her autobiographical memoirs, poems and essays, Angelou has also crafted cookbooks among her “lighter fare.” The subtitle to Hallelujah! The Welcome Table invites the reader to enjoy “A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes.”  The Random House book jacket proclaims that the book is “a stunning combination of the two things Angelou loves best: writing and cooking.”

Each section of the book is introduced with personal reflection. In one of these, Angelou recalls the desserts that were shared to cap off local quilting bees:

“Mrs. Sneed, the pastor’s wife, would bring sweet potato pie, warm and a little too sweet for Momma’s taste but perfect to Bailey and me.  Mrs. Miller’s coconut cake and Mrs. Kendrick’s chocolate fudge were what Adam and Eve ate in the Garden just before the Fall.  But the most divine dessert of all was Momma’s Caramel Cake.”

Angelou goes on to share a poignant memory of how her mother baked a caramel cake to lift her spirits after an incident earlier that day.  A teacher had slapped the then-mute Maya and demanded that she talk. Read the rest of this entry

Fabulous Teen Tech

by Howard Shirley, Teen Department

It’s Teen Tech Week, and to celebrate we consulted a panel of teen readers about their favorite techy stories, featuring fantastic technology they wish was real, and creepy technology they’d rather never see. And then we rounded out the whole thing by selecting a few books we love featuring tech both real and imaginary—as well as tech you may someday create yourself!

Fiction

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game begins after humanity has barely survived a genocidal war against technically advanced alien invaders, and Earth fears that race’s eventual return. The last invasion was defeated almost solely by the action of one heroic military officer, and the leaders of Earth are desperate to create soldiers who can mimic that hero’s instinctive skill. Potential candidates are selected as children and trained in an orbiting military academy, featuring a recreational battle game, sort of a cross between laser tag and Red Rover, played in zero-gravity inside a huge sphere. The eventual victors of this tournament, led by the novel’s young hero, Ender, also train in a complex computer simulator, learning to command the space fleet that must confront and destroy the enemy—with unexpected results. Our panel of teens loved the idea of the battle game in its weightless environment, as well as the computer simulator.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

For creepy tech, our teens brought up the Divergent series and the technology used in the novels to identify and control the members of a dystopian future society. At sixteen, everyone is divided by law into five distinct factions, ostensibly chosen by the individual. The choice, however, is influenced by a complex personality test run in a virtual reality environment, which uses the individual’s personal fears to direct that choice. Secretly, one of the factions develops a serum that allows them to use the VR tech to control the minds of others and launch a bloody coup. “Divergent” refers to those who can’t be easily regimented by the VR test and who can recognize the VR world as not being actual reality, thus becoming immune to the effects of the mind-control. Everyone agreed that this sort of technology was one they’d never want to see come into reality.

Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama

This popular manga (Japanese comic book series), features another dystopian setting, where humanity has been reduced to a tiny population living in an immense walled city to protect itself from roving, gigantic “Titans” whose only apparent desire is to eat humans. The warriors assigned to defend humanity are equipped with “vertical mobility devices,” which are arrow-tipped grappling hooks fired by gas canisters. The cables allow the warriors to swing through city, forests, and even from the Titans themselves, “just like Spiderman” as our teen panel put it. The soldiers also use flexible swords which are the only weapons capable of killing the monstrous Titans. The blades, however, are destroyed when they strike a Titan, and the hilts must be reloaded from a supply cartridge worn like a scabbard at the warrior’s waist. Our teen panel loved the idea of being able to swing through the air with the grappling-hook harnesses, and who doesn’t love a techy sword?

Our teen panel then rounded out the discussion with recommendations for books and videos featuring Doctor Who—because TIME TRAVEL! (Which is hard to beat as tech goes.)

Our Honorary Best Book for Teen Tech Week:

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua

Part part non-fiction, part fiction, this highly amusing and intelligent graphic novel tells the adventures of (the real) Lady Ada Lovelace and (the also real) Charles Babbage in an “alternate pocket universe;” the alternate part being that the two actually build the invention they collaborated on in real life—the fabulous Analytical Engine, a steam-powered Victorian-era computer! If you’ve ever wondered what the Steampunk phenomena is all about, these two historical persons are at the heart of it. (As one of the book’s characters quips about the pair, “Oh look, we’re present for the invention of the geek.”) The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage mixes silly adventures and fabulous Victorian engineering with real history about the development of computing, programming languages, and a dash of women’s rights, all nearly a century before anyone made the first computer chip. If you love steampunk, history, computers or just laughing out loud about any of them, there’s no better book to grab for Teen Tech Week.

Other Teen Tech books in our collection include:

Time Travel Tech (because Doctor Who!)

  • Loop by Karen Akins
  • Hourglass series by Myra McEntire
  • The Time Machine by HG Wells (the father of them all)

Spy Tech

  • Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz
  • Gallagher Academy series by Ally Carter
  • The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp Series by Rick Yancey

Cybertech

  • Feed by MT Anderson
  • The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyers
  • Blue Screen by Dan Wells

Space Tech

  • Avalon Duology by Mindee Abnett
  • Dove Arising by Karen Bao
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  • Existence by David Brin
  • Illuminae Series by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  • Dragonback Series by Timothy Zahn

Genetic Tech

  • Maximum Ride Series by James Patterson—teens bio-engineered with angel’s wings, pursued by teens bio-engineered as wolves.

Tech That Never Was (But Should Have Been) Tech

  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  • Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel
  • Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld—featuring steam-powered walking tanks and bio-engineered flying whales!!!

Almost There Tech

  • Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld—featuring a hoverboard that floats over metal rails, or water with a strong iron content. Real  efforts to create hoverboards have in fact produced two workable versions- one that operates only above a metal surface, and another that operates (using superconductors) over a magnetic surface. Aside from the lack of any ability to float over water, this tech really does exist.

Ridiculous Tech

  • Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams—the tech is as silly (and impossible) as the novel, but who wouldn’t love to own the spacecraft Heart of Gold?

Actual You Can Do This Tech

Technology just isn’t something in books or something made by other people. If you love tech, why not make it your career? Check out these non-fiction books to kickstart your quest!

  • Careers for Tech Girls in Engineering by Marcia Amidon Lusted YA 620.0023 LUS
  • Preparing for Tomorrow’s Careers Series:
  • Powering Up a Career in Robotics by Peter K. Robin YA 629.892 RYA
  • Powering Up a Career in Software Development and Programming by Daniel E. Harmon YA 005.12023 HAR
  • Powering Up a Career in Nanotechnology by Kristi Lew YA620.5023 LEW

Dog Stars by Peter Heller

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

heller-dogIn this post-apocalyptic novel, we meet Hig and his dog, Jasper. Hig survived the world-ending flu pandemic and more. His only companions are Jasper and Bangley, a survivalist and weapons enthusiast. Hig’s way of escaping the monotony and horror is to fly. He goes on perimeter checks for Bangley, he flies to living forests to find deer, and he returns to a hidden stash of sodas in a crashed 18 wheeler. Jasper is his co-pilot; he’s getting on in years, and is almost deaf, but he’s a great companion. Bangley understands that Jasper is an early warning system. When Jasper dies, Hig goes into an understood decline, then decides to go exploring further that his gas will allow. He will have to find a safe place to refuel the plane–he has no idea what he will find, or even if he will live through it.

Heller is an adventure writer who often contributes to NPR. He is also a contributing editor at Outside magazine, Men’s Journal, and National Geographic Adventure, and other magazines. He knows how to describe nature and has a good eye for detail. I was a little worried about the post-apocalyptic setting, but it drew me in and I ended up really liking the book.

%d bloggers like this: