About Leslie

Outreach Librarian. I drive the bookmobile to pre-schools for storytimes and to check out books.

Must Reads for Summer 2014

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There are good and bad things about working in a library. The good: all of the great books that you discover and get to read. The bad: all of the great books that you don’t have time to read. We all have excuses and these are mine: full-time work and a toddler who just turned two years old and a baby who is ten months old. Oh yeah, and a house and garden and that guy I married 33 years ago. So, I often feel like that funny old bird the pelican whose beak holds more than his belly can. I have a beak full of great reads these days which may interest you if you’re participating in the summer reading program at the Everett Public Library or if you’re lucky enough to be planning a vacation and need a good book to take along. This list has a little bit of everything so there may be just the right book for you. Let’s start with non-fiction.

indexCA1ADCTLFlash Boys: a Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis is on my list since I read Boomerang and I thought that it was the bomb. This guy also wrote Moneyball and The Blind Side and other excellent books. It reads like a John Grisham novel, but it’s a true story about stock exchanges, high frequency traders, and dark pools. The author is great at explaining complicated technical subjects and telling a good story around them. I want to read it!

indexCA63IMS4Leonardo and the Last Supper has been by my bedside for a few weeks now. It’s excellent! I was an art history major in college and I’ve learned so much more from this book about the creation of this Renaissance masterpiece. Mr. King has managed to focus on a particular theme and give the reader as much information as needed to really understand it. Another of his earlier books accomplished the same thing, Brunelleschi’s Dome, which I can also recommend.

indexCAAEEVC8The President and the Assassin: McKinley, terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century is a great book (obvious from the first chapter) by Seattle author, Scott Miller. He creates a portrait of turn of the century America going back and forth between an under-appreciated president, William McKinley and his anarchist assassin, Leon Czolgosz. This was a time when the powerful were growing more powerful and desperate men turned to terrorism. Sound familiar?

And now for some fiction:

index (16)I have to read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie because my daughter heard her give a talk recently in Copenhagen and apparently it’s wonderful. The author takes on immigration, race, and what it means to leave home and to return, all wrapped up in a love story. Adichie has also written Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus. The first chapter alone is marvelous. Let’s all get with it and read this one.

indexCAZNZBA7The Care of Wooden Floors by Will WIles was recommended to me by two co-workers so I checked it out and my husband read it while we were on vacation. Even though I couldn’t read it, he confirmed that it is funny and interesting and a good book.  It’s an odd couple story of a fellow who house sits for a composer friend. He accidentally spills wine on the apartment’s priceless wooden floor and endures a disastrous week of perfectionist repair and maintenance.

index (1)Delicious! is by Ruth Reichl. I’ve read all of her memoirs from Garlic and Sapphires to Tender at the Bone. This is her first attempt at fiction and she certainly writes about what she knows: the heroine is a woman who works for a venerable food magazine that suddenly ceases publication. It looks like a pretty fun and fast read, and if you’re looking for a souffle-type novel, you could do worse! Plus, the cover is lovely.

indexBroken Harbor is Tana French’s new ‘Dublin Murder Squad’ crime novel and it’s supposed to be every bit as brilliant as her three earlier books featuring that tough cop, Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy. This is a murder story which seems easy to solve at first until the details don’t add up. Read this one to get the atmosphere of an Ireland hit hard by the recession, an idea of police procedure and to become engrossed in a well written who dunnit.

index (1)The Possibilities is written by Kaui Hart Hemmings who also wrote The Descendants. You’ll remember that movie with George Clooney. This new book follows a similar theme of family and loss and is set in the paradise of Breckenridge, Colorado. A single mom is grieving the loss of her son, Cully, in an avalanche when a strange girl shows up with a secret from Cully’s past.

indexThe Vacationers by Emma Straub  will take you all the way to the beaches of Spain, where a family’s dramas are set against the beautiful background of a lush vacation. It will leave you feeling like you were just on a family trip – laughing, exhausted and filled with love.

So, check out one of these books to take on your next vacation or simply read one for a great ‘staycation’. Either way, enjoy!

Books That Started as Blogs

If you’re like me, and I hope you are, you follow a blog or two just because it’s fun. Of course I read this very blog because my smart and hip co-workers contribute valuable stuff to it. Hey, you’re reading it right now! You must be just like me.

Did you know that there are a lot of great books which have been spawned from blogs? Let’s explore some recent titles which had their starts as blogs. I’ll start with the visual ones:

indexCake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong by Jen Yates is so funny! Yates has been entertaining us with the worst cakes ever, including the ugly, silly, creepy, sad, and suggestive on her blog since 2008. It currently features photos of awful graduation cakes. Have your cake and laugh at it, too. With witty commentary and behind-the-scenes tidbits, Cake Wrecks will ensure that you never look at a cake the same way again.

index (1)There, I Fixed It! No, You Didn’t by Cheez Burger is part of the ubiquitous Cheezburger Network of blogs and is another hilarious visual feast full of epic fails which show human ingenuity at its worst. My favorite ‘chapter’ features quick fixes with duct tape.

index (14)How To Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You is based on the blog, The Oatmeal, a hugely popular website. It is a brilliant 136 page offering of cat comics, facts, and instructions to help you enjoy, love, and survive your cat. The book is a #1 NY Times best seller and sold over a half million copies in its first three months in print. Check it out from the library for free. Even I laughed, and I hate cats.

index (3)I do love dogs and fortunately for me there’s Dog Shaming by Pascale Lemire, based on the blog with the same name. This book features the most hilarious, shameful, and never-before-seen doggie misdeeds. It reminds me of the evening we were sitting around with friends having a nice conversation, when we discovered that our friend’s dog had chewed apart another friend’s shoe. We didn’t think to take a photo, but these folks have taken some pretty funny ones.

index (13)And what blog-book list would be complete without an awkward family photo selection? I’ll include Awkward Family Pet Photos which came from the Awkward Family Photos blog. These books are always so weird, yet funny. Just look at this fellow hugging his dog on the cover. The photos with monkeys, possums, and chickens are especially hilarious. And now on to the blog-books which have more text than photos.

index (4)Let’s Pretend This Never Happened:  (A Mostly True Memoir) is written by Jenny Lawson, the “Bloggess”. She’s ‘like Mother Theresa, only better.’ She writes this about her book: “You should probably go buy it right now, because it’s filled with awesomeness. And cocaine. But only if you hollow it out and fill it with your own cocaine. I’m not buying you cocaine. Because I love you.” I thought it was hilarious when I read it and you may also, since you’re just like me!

index (5)Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian by Scott Douglas who writes dispatches on McSweeney’s. Scott Douglas works for a smallish public library nestled cozily between Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm in Orange County, California. This is where most of his observations occur, although sometimes he goes to other libraries. This book is super funny because it could have taken place at our very own local library. Read it and see for yourself.

index (6)The Happiest Mom by Meagan Francis who writes the Happiest Home blog online. The author also writes for Parenting magazine and is the mother of five children, so she presumably knows her stuff and spells it out in ten simple rules that are delivered with humor. This book has gorgeous graphics and the main idea is that you can be a mom (or grandparent) and still be happy. As I’ve always said, if Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

These blog-books are sure to make you happy.  Check them out at your local library!

Notable New Picture Books at Your Library

ideal-bookshelfI have just started purchasing the picture books for the three branches of the Everett Public Library System. I know, I know! I’m paid to spend money on books. Jealous? Well, you should be!  It’s super fun.

Anyway, I thought I’d highlight some of the best picture books of 2014 thus far. But first, let me explain the book buying process for this library. It was fascinating to me. We order from a huge book service. They send an online ‘cart’ each month of suggested titles. The cart includes reviews from professional journals and a way to sort the list by popularity, title, and many other things. Some books you immediately know that you’ll want to order multiple copies while some you delete just as quickly. Then you add books that need to be replaced because of wear and tear. Also, you add requests from other librarians and patrons and any great books that have come to your attention through your professional readings. That’s it!

index (1)So now, on to the fun part: shiny new picture books. One of my favorites so far is The Highway Rat by Donaldson. This is a rhyming tale inspired by the Highwayman:

The Highway Rat was a baddie. The Highway Rat was a beast. He took what he wanted and ate what he took. His life was one long feast.  His teeth were sharp and yellow, his manners were rough and rude, And the Highway Rat went riding – riding – riding – Riding along the highway and stealing the traveler’s food.

He even stole his own horse’s hay. Well, he gets his comeuppance. This is a rascally natural for reading aloud.

index (11)index (12)Some of the most popular new titles will surely be the new Frozen books. I have had little girls asking for these books for months. They’ll be happy to sit and look at the illustrations for hours and that’s a good thing because you won’t want to read these aloud more than once.


Sophie’s Squash
index (2) by Pat Miller in which a little girl affectionately adopts a butternut squash, is a winner. After her parents buy that squash for dinner at the farmers market, Sophie commandeers it giving it a face with markers. It proves just the right size to hold, bounce on her knee and love.  With lessons on life, love, and vegetable gardening, this tale will be cherished by children and their parents will be happy to read it to them often.

index (3)E I E I O: How Old MacDonald Got His Farm With a Little Help from a Hen by Judy Sierra is a fresh take on two old tales: Old MacDonald and the Little red Hen. Once upon a time, Old MacDonald didn’t have a farm. He just had a yard — a yard he didn’t want to mow. But under the direction of the wise Little Red Hen, Mac learns to look at the environment in a very different way. Whole new worlds start to bloom with the help of some mud, garbage, horse poop, and worms!

index (4)Mr Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown is about a Victorian tiger who, well, goes wild. He’s tired of the proper life. There’s a nice twist in the plot and it’s not too preachy about being yourself, but still gets that message across. You’ll go wild for this tale of daring to be different and the illustrations are super cool with their muted greens and browns that pop with a wild orange every so often.

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I can highly recommend Some Bugs by Angela Diterlizzi because it’s a rhyming book about BUGS! We take a delightful tour through the insect world and learn that “Some bugs sting. Some bugs bite. Some bugs stink. And some bugs fight!”  For the true insect lovers, the last two page spread is entitled ‘What’s that bug?’ and identifies all the bugs seen earlier in the book. Some Bugs is some kind of terrific.

index (6)What Does the Fox Say? by Svein Nyhus is based on the wildly popular youtube video based on the song. This book will have you singing along in no time. Dog goes woof. Cat goes meow and on and on, but there’s one sound that no one knows. What does the fox say? Who knew that they say: Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding and wa pa pa pa pa pa pow? This book takes animal sounds to a whole new level.

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My Humongous Hamster by Lorna Freytag is so popular that I’ve been asked to order more. Fans of Dave Pilkey’s Dogzilla and Kat Kong will enjoy this one. This hamster gets really huge when he’s hungry but goes back to regular size when he misses his human.

Journeyindex (8) by Aaron Becker is a wordless book with awesome illustrations and a creatively imaginative story. Using a red marker, a young girl draws a door on her bedroom wall and through it enters another world where she experiences many adventures, including being captured by an evil emperor.

index (9)Tap the Magic Tree by Matheson is simply magical. I love interactive books such as this one. Each page has you doing something to make the tree change: from a brown bare wintry tree to one with leaves, then blossoms, then apples, and you guessed it, falling leaves and snow again. It’s a keeper.

index (10)The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems is on order but surely will be a favorite. The Pigeon really needs a bath! Except, the Pigeon’s not so sure about that. Besides, he took a bath last month. Maybe. It’s going to take some serious convincing to try and get the Pigeon to take the plunge.

index (16)I love Stella’s Starliner by Rosemary Wells. It’s a charming story about Stella who is super happy living with her mum and dad in a silver Starliner (“as silver as a comet in the sky”) until the sad day comes when some bullies tease her for living in a trailer. The family ends up ‘moving’ and her new neighbors think that she must be rich to live in a silver house. Charming!

index (17)Finally, there’s Is Everyone Ready For Fun? by Jan Thomas. Chicken has some unexpected and exuberant cow visitors who have exciting plans for jumping, dancing, and wiggling on his teeny-tiny couch, and Chicken is none too happy about it. That is until the fun concludes with a quiet, cozy and delicious nap for all!  

So, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Come on down to the library and check out all of the new picture books.

Discover A Children’s Book Author: Laura Vaccaro Seeger

ideal-bookshelfdownloadLaura Vaccaro Seeger is known as “the queen of the concept book,” and young children around the world are overwhelmingly glad that she creates beautiful books that bring new life to familiar subjects. She is famous for making books that appear simple and straight forward at first glance, but when you look closer they reveal deep, rich layers that enhance your enjoyment. Using signature die-cut art and wonderful painting, readers are invited to take a step back and ‘see’ a concept through fresh eyes. Seeger’s books encourage readers to re-examine the world they think they already understand.

index (5)Seeger’s first published work was the American Library Association notable children’s book Walter Was Worried. It’s a great launching pad for discussions about emotions. But wait! Upon closer examination you see that Seeger used the letters from different emotions about a pending storm to make up the facial features of these children. Do you see the w on his cheek, that his mouth is a “D” and his eyes are ‘o’ and ‘e’? Walter really was worried.

index (6)Black? White! Day? Night! is a very cool and colorful opposites book. Through a series of ingenious die-cut pages, the reader discovers things that are the opposite of what they seem. The format includes eighteen questions and answers which creates an element of surprise. Kids love surprises and they will surely love this book.

indexSara London of the New York Times wrote that the “playground of perception seems to be Seeger’s most natural arena,” calling her picture book, First the Egg “a feat of ingenuity.” Using simple text and illustrations, this book shows how animals and objects change (including tadpoles to frogs and seeds to flowers) in a book with cutouts so that certain colors from the previous picture help create the next picture. This book would be a good spring-board for discussions with small children.

index (1)Her book, The Hidden Alphabet, is an outstanding and artful alphabet book. It is a ‘lift-the-flap’ book which is a visual delight. This video gives you an idea of how the flaps lift and reveal the letter: where before there was an object such as an arrowhead (A), balloons (B), and a cloud (C). This book would be an excellent addition to your home book shelf as there’s more to see each time you open it and it really is quite lovely.

index (2)index (3)Her Dog and Bear books are different from her others in that they are narratives, that is, stories. Each of these books contains three stories about the close friends Dog, who is a dachshund, and Bear, who is, well, a bear. These are wonderful picture book stories for the pre-school set.

index (8)One Boy is a die-cut book exploring counting and words-within words. At the start, readers see a sad boy surrounded by empty lonely chairs. At his feet is a bag with paint brushes peeking out. The text reads “ONE boy” which-with a turn of the page and a look through a cleverly cut hole-turns into “all alONE.” Page after page, the book becomes populated with seals, apes, and monkeys, all examples of words-within-words. Finally, we come back to “ONE boy” who is “all dONE,” and we discover where all the characters came from.

index (7)What If? is like one of those movies where different choices cause different endings. What if a boy found a beach ball and kicked it into the ocean? What if two seals found it and began to play? What if a third seal appeared on the beach looking for a friend? Enjoy this visit to the beach and the chance to guess what happens when different choices are made.

index (31)This is a video of her picture book, Green. Challenged by her editor to create a book with this title, Seeger kicked around the idea and thought of the environment at first, but then settled on the color green and all its many permutations. I was expecting the typical shades of green but was pleasantly surprised to see the clever takes on wacky green, slow green, and no green at all. This book seems to be asking, “How many different ways can you look at the color green?”

index (4)In her most recent work, Bully, there is a bull who doesn’t know how to make friends. He’s been bullied by the other bulls and when asked to play by some other animals responds in the same way. He puffs himself up and calls them all names until one little goat stands up to him and calls him a bully. Then he realizes the way that he’s been acting. He returns to his regular size, no longer puffed up and mean, and apologizes to them. Luckily, they are still willing to play with him. With the book having few words, most of the bullying is conveyed by the artwork and the bull’s posture and size. While capturing the feeling of being bullied, this book also shows that if you are bullying others, you can self-correct and still be friends.

I can hardly wait to see what fabulous book Seeger will come up with next, but in the meantime, come on down to the Everett Public Library and check out her books!

Discover a Children’s Book Author: Jennifer L. Holm

ideal-bookshelfWelcome to the first in a series of blog posts I’ve created to introduce you to various children’s book authors. There are a lot of great ones out there and it’s worth knowing about them. Who knows, you may find yourself reading some really great (children’s) literature.

I recently had a chance to meet some children’s book authors at the Children’s Literature Conference held at Western Washington University in Bellingham. It was a pleasure to meet Jennifer L. Holm that day. Here’s a little about her for your edification:

jenniholmJennifer was born in California and lived for a short time on Whidbey Island. She spent most of her growing up years in Audobon, Pennsylvania. Constantly reading as a child, her favorite author was Lloyd Alexander. She was a broadcast producer at an advertising agency in New York City before she took up writing and quickly received three Newbery Honor Awards for historical fiction novels. Holm currently lives in California with her husband and two young children where she loves to write in her slippers and pajamas while her children are at school.

index (10)Holm started writing with a series about Boston Jane. Sixteen-year-old Jane Peck has ventured to the unknown wilds of the Northwest to wed her childhood idol, William Baldt. But her impeccable training at Miss Hepplewhite’s Young Ladies Academy in Philadelphia is hardly preparation for the colorful characters and crude life that she finds in the Washington Territory. Having to rely upon her wits in the wild, Jane must determine for herself whether she is truly proper Miss Jane Peck of Philadelphia, faultless young lady and fiance, or Boston Jane, as the Chinook dub her, fearless and loyal woman of the frontier.

index (23)Our Only May Amelia is based upon Holm’s great-aunt Alice Amelia Holm’s diary. She was a Finnish-American girl born on the Nasel River in Washington state during the nineteenth century. Mae Amelia is the only girl in a family with seven brothers and has many great adventures. You certainly will enjoy this book set in Washington state. In fact, the city of Lacey, Washington recently used this novel as their “Everyone Reads” choice.

index (24)Holm recommended that you learn from her mistake and write a novel about your mother’s side of the family before you focus on your father’s side, as she did in Mae Amelia. Thus came the inspiration for Penny from Heaven. It’s 1953 and eleven year old Penny dreams of a summer of ice cream, swimming, and baseball. But nothing is that simple for Penny. She can’t go swimming because her mother is afraid that she’ll catch polio at the pool. This is a shinning story about the everyday and the extraordinary, about a time in America’s history when being Italian meant you were the enemy. But mostly, it’s a story about family. This is a book my mother-in-law would enjoy! You may also.

index (25)Turtle in Paradise, another Newbery honor book, is inspired by stories of Holm’s great-grandmother who immigrated to Key West at the turn of the last century. It’s 1935 and Turtle heads off to Key West Florida to live with relatives that she’s never met. It’s hot and strange, with wild jungle peeping out between houses, ragtag boy cousins, and secret treasure. Before she knows what’s happening, Turtle finds herself coming out of her shell (!) and the world opens up in unexpected ways.

It would be easy to typecast Holm as a historical fiction writer since she has written this slew of great historic fiction novels. But WAIT! There’s more! She has broken any expectations that hold her to that single genre with her two graphic novel series.

Growing up with four brothers, Holm’s family devoured comic books. She, however, was bothered by the representation (of lack thereof) of girls and women in these stories and decided to do something about it. Babymouse was born, introducing a likeable character who is strong-willed, risk-taking, funny, and impulsive. Her brother, Matt Holm, is the illustrator of these pink-tinted comics that cause readers to read one after another.

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The Holm siblings also collaborate on Squish, a baseball-capped amoeba who leaves readers chuckling while also learning a few science related ideas. Holm creates mice and amoebas (as well as people) that captivate young readers in these graphic novel series.

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Stay tuned for her upcoming middle grade novel coming out later this year, The Fourteenth Goldfish, where she and Grandpa Melvin explore the wonders of science and raise big questions about family and friendship, life and death.

You can find most of Jennifer L. Holm’s books here at the Everett Public Library. Come on down and borrow a few!

Easy Ideas for Literary Mardi Gras Gala Costumes

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Are you thinking of joining in on the Mardi Gras fun at the library this Saturday, but hesitant because of the costume piece of the puzzle? You can always ‘come as you are’, but I’d like to suggest some really easy author and literary character costume ideas for your inspiration.

You could come as Madeline, Virginia Woolf, or Mark Twain, but those costumes require some specific clothing. Here are some ideas which can come straight from your closet without any special purchases.

index (14)nancyLet’s start with a fun one: Nancy Drew. Throw on your favorite twin set, loafers, knee highs and head band and then simply grab a flash light and magnifying glass and you’re good to go. Check out a copy of one of Nancy’s mysteries and it’ll be super obvious who you are.

index (15)harrietIf you want a younger sleuth, try Harriet the Spy. You’d have a super comfortable evening in this costume: high tops, jeans, and a hoodie. Complete your ensemble with the obligatory magnifying glass, binoculars, flashlight and a notebook for chronicling all of your fun.

Wild cover imagewildDid you read Wild? This would be a sporty costume: Dig out your hiking boots, or maybe just one, and get your back pack, compass, and water bottle or map. Bingo, you’re Cheryl Strand. And you’ll have a very comfortable and athletic evening to boot.

index (16)31Ign0uBGbL._SL500_AA300_Simply don a pig snout to be one of the villainous swine from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. This is a super easy costume but, on second thought, it’d make it hard to eat and drink all evening. This costume has the added appeal of disappearing into your pocket when you’re tired of the get-up.

index (17)enhanced-buzz-8603-1380754592-12For the super lazy: Just get yourself a red “A” and slap it onto your long dress. Bingo, you’re Hester from the Scarlet Letter. Better still if you’re pregnant… This would be an elegant get up which would surely spark many a conversation. There. Done.

index (18)enhanced-buzz-4504-1380753969-28For the even lazier: Find yourself a name tag which says: “Hello.  My name is…” and instantly become Ishmael from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. This is nothing short of brilliant because it is not only easy, but quite high brow as well.

index (19)enhanced-buzz-7265-1380754757-35How about the wildly popular Fifty Shades of Grey? Surely you’ve seen the photo of the fellow who has taped all sorts of paint chips onto his white t-shirt? Here it is. So fun! So easy! This just involves a trip to the paint store and some scotch tape.

index (20)Bridget-JonesHow about Bridget Jones from Mad About the Boy? This costume has the added advantage of doubling as your home movie attire for after the gala. No need to change clothes and you even have the wine and ice cream ready to go! Will someone please tell me why you need spanx with your pajamas?

index (21)Orange-is-the-New-BlackYet another easy idea: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. The problem here is that you’ll need an orange jump suit and that’s not your typical closet staple. Maybe you’ll have to sneak out to the Good Will and just buy anything orange.

index (22)Night-CircusI love this idea: dress like you’re in the Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This would simply mean only wearing black, white, and red and perhaps painting your face white. This would be a very striking ensemble fit for a gala.

There are so many good ideas for easy literary costumes. Be sure to don one and come to this fun gala. Remember, it’s Saturday March 1 at 7:00 pm at the Main Library. Tickets cost $10 through Brown Paper Tickets or at the door. Enjoy a taste of Everett’s finest restaurants, coffee courtesy of Bookend Coffee, and a cash bar.

The WIld Snohomians will be playing for your listening and dancing enjoyment, and there will be prizes for the best costumes!

As always with Friends events, all proceeds will benefit library services for children and adults. Past Friends events have helped fund the Summer Reading book prizes, the teen area at the Main Library and book group sets.

I hope to see you there!

Books to Read before the Movie Premieres

I’d like to augment Alan’s series on books which have been made into movies with this list of 2014 movies which are based on books. This is going to be an awesome year at the movies and you’ll enjoy the them even more if you check out these books from the library and read them before viewing the films. Here they are in order of release date.

index (34)1. The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel and Bret Witter. The book: The true story of art historians who joined the armed forces during World War II to try to track down and save as much fine art as possible before and after Hitler got his hands on it. The movie: Will be released February 7th and stars a fantastic cast including: George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, and Bill Murray.

index2. Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. The book: Takes readers on a journey to New York of the Belle Époque, where Peter Lake attempts to rob a Manhattan mansion only to find the daughter of the house at home. Thus begins the love between the middle-aged Irishman and Beverly Penn, a young girl who is dying. The movie: This romantic fantasy comes out February 14th and stars Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe and Jessica Brown Findlay.

index (1)3. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. The book: Try to read at least the first book in this series. There are way too many sexy vampire books out there, but with a mythology different from your typical vampire story, a novel this dark is definitely worth your time. The movie: Will also be released February 14th and stars Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, and Sarah Hyland.  It was made by the directors of Mean Girls.

index (2)4. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. The book: Tells the story of four people who encounter one another on the roof of Topper’s House, a London destination famous as the last stop for those ready to end their lives. It is told in four distinct voices and manages to be humorous and somber at the same time. The movie: Stars Aaron Paul, Rosamund Pike, Imogen Poots and Pierce Brosnan and will be released March 7th.

index (3)5. Divergent by Veronica Roth. The book: Set in a world where you’re placed in neat little categories called factions, it’s dangerous to be someone like Tris — someone who is Divergent. Being Divergent means you don’t just belong in one category, and it also means you can’t be controlled. This is a frightening world, but a must-read book. The movie: Stars Kate Winslet, Shailene Woodley and Theo James and will be in theaters March 21st.  Scary!

index (4)6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. The book: Will have you laughing and crying and then crying some more since it is a beautifully written romance between two terminally ill young people. It is a beautiful story about life and death. The movie: Also stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort and will be out June 6th. Remove your mascara and take tissue with you to this emotional movie based on the book.

index (5)7. The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard Morais. The book: The story starts with a tragedy in Mumbai, India and follows the family around the world until they land in Lumiere, France where they open an Indian restaurant one hundred feet from a fancy french restaurant. The movie: Helen Mirren will play Madame Mallory who is initially infuriated when the new restaurant is such a success, but then softens and takes the young man under her wing. Release date is August 8th.

index (6)8. The Giver by Lois Lowry. The book: The Giver,  the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, follows the story of a boy who is given the responsibility of remembering the history of the world that existed before the establishment of the Utopian society in which he now lives. Profound and full of important messages, this is definitely a novel that should be on your ‘To Be Read’ list. The movie: Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep make this a highly anticipated movie and Taylor Swift tries acting. The release date is August 15th.

index (7)9. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. The book: This is a dark twisted tale with despicable characters and a sometimes harrowing, but well developed, plot which some readers may find just too uncomfortable to read. It’s not a happy story or a feel good book. On the other hand, if you like a little of the above, then Dark Places will keep you turning the pages and have you sitting up and reading long into the night. The movie: To be released September 1st with Charlize Theron.

index (8)10. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. The book: Simultaneously mourning the death of his father and the end of his marriage, Judd joins the rest of the Foxmans as they reluctantly submit to their patriarch’s dying request to spend the seven days following the funeral together. In the same house. Like a family. The book is hilarious. The movie: With Jason Bateman and Tina Fey. Enough said. To be released September 12th.

index (9)11. The Maze Runner by James Dashner. The book: The Maze Runner is the first book in the trilogy of the same name by James Dashner. It is the story of Thomas, who wakes up in a strange place and can remember nothing more than his name. Set in a mysterious place surrounded by a maze that changes every night and contains hideous monsters within its walls, this is a sci-fi thriller that’s a little bit Lord of the Flies and a little bit The Hunger Games.The movie: With the release date of September 19th, features Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario.

index (10)12. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. The book: Amy mysteriously disappears on her fifth wedding anniversary and it’s looking more and more like her husband Nick was involved. This thrilling book will translate into a great suspenseful movie. The movie: With Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, it will be out on October 3rd just in time for the Halloween season.

index (11)13. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. The book: the true story of Louis Zamperini, a track star from the 1930′s who participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and then became an airman in WWII.  His plane went down in the Pacific Ocean and the story is fascinating. The movie: To be released on Christmas day, directed by Angelina Jolie, and starring Garrett Hedlund, Jai Courtney, and Domhnall Gleeson.

index (12)14. Wild by Cheryl Strand. The book: Chreyl lost both her mother and her marriage in quick succession, so with nothing left to lose, she decided to hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.  It is a story of wilderness salvation and survival, both internally and externally. The movie: Will be released sometime in 2014 and will star Reese Witherspoon.  

index (13)15. Serena by Ron Rash. The book: The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena learns that she will never bear a child, and sets out to murder the son George fathered without her. The movie: A must-see since it stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. To be released sometime this year.

Well, there you have it. Read the book first so the movie will be all the better. Enjoy! Go Seahawks!

Make This a Book Christmas

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I think you’d agree that this 1927 poster from the National Association of Booksellers has a great message. Are you giving books this Christmas? I am! Spoiler alert. My father-in-law is getting an autographed copy of The Boys in the Boat and my mother-in-law will be opening Bill Bryson’s One Summer: America 1927If you need some book buying ideas, here are some of the most popular gift books of the holiday season.

index (29)index (30)For kids, I like to give books that they’ll look at again and again. A perfect example is Guinness World Records which is always checked out at the library because the kids love it. You also can’t go wrong with The Animal Book. Every child loves animals and this book has them all.

index (13)index (14)For the drinker on your list, consider the World Atlas of Wine or The Complete Beer Course. This is the seventh edition of the great wine reference book and this new book on beer claims to teach you how to select and enjoy a brewski. Talk about a win-win.

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Everyone loves the indulgence of a beautiful coffee table book. Remodelista: a Model for the Considered Home is not just a primer on remodeling, but is also full of tips on creating a home full of personality and pizzazz. The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects is any history junkie’s dream.

index (16)index (19)Let’s face it, it’s always entertaining to gawk at people. If you’re a fan of Brandon Scranton’s blog, or even just people in general, Humans of New York offers hours of enjoyment. You could also try Awkward Family Holiday Photos which will surely become a holiday treasure.

index (17)index (20)I would love to receive a copy of Art Made From Books:  Altered, Sculpted, Carved, Transformed (hint, hint). I mean, just look at the cover! Wish I could open it up right now. Or how about the luscious Wes Anderson Collection? You won’t be able to put it down.

index (22)index (23)For the cat lover on your list, here’s Kittenhood. It’s darling. And for the dog lover, give Shake which is a pictorial work of different breeds of dogs shaking after being wet.

index (24)index (25)For someone who needs a good laugh,consider Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Borsch. Apparently, it’s pee your pants funny. Or let Ron Burgundy entertain you with stories from his past in Let Me Off at the Top. Either may be the perfect gift for that young teenager or aging anchorman on your list.

index (26)index (33)For the history buff, try History Decoded by Brad Meltzer. This book, inspired by the History Network show, explores unexplained mysteries such as what the government is hiding in Area 51. Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit will appeal to many history lovers on your list.

index (27)index (32)If you know someone who loves biographies, buy Lawrence in Arabia. It is one of the best books of the year, a history with flair and a fun read at that. I can also recommend Nancy, the Story of Lady Astor. It is a well written account of an American woman who was the first female member of Parliament.

index (28)index (31)Finally for the cook on your list, give the Ottolenghi: the Cookbook. This cookbook of Mediterranean food is exquisitely designed, entertainingly written, and the food is delicious. I’d also like to put a plug in for my friend Bob Donegan’s new book, Ivar’s Seafood Cookbook: the O-fish-al Guide to Cooking the Northwest Catch.

detail_21404082It may be too late to order online, but your local independent book dealer will have her shop open Christmas Eve. I hope these suggestions will help you make this a “Book Christmas” for a year of good reading ahead!

Girl Books

The last student in the bookmobile wasn’t finding a book that she wanted. She finally asked me for a ‘girl book.’  I knew what she wanted: a Disney or Barbie Princess book. Those books are very poorly written but the little girls love them because of all of the pretty pictures. So, what did I do? I put my hand down and, without looking, grabbed the first book I could touch.  It was about Space.  “Here’s a girl book!”  I exclaimed.

index (5)index (4)The little girl said, “That’s not a girl book! It’s not pink!” The teacher and I exchanged sad looks before I brought out the pink princess books. Yay! She found the one she wanted: The Perfect Princess Tea Party. She left a happy customer.

Then I saw this awesome GoldieBlox ad on the internet which shows three little girls absolutely bored, bored, bored with a pink toy commercial. They turn off the TV and create a fantastic Rube Goldberg set-up in their home. It was inspirational! One of the lines set to the Beastie Boys tune says, “Girls!  Don’t underestimate girls!” It got me thinking about all of the little princesses out there and how to get better books into their hands so they’re not bored, bored, bored. Here are some great picture books for your little princesses.

index (6)Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson is one of my favorites. Cinder Edna lives next door to Cinderella and they each end up with the prince of their dreams but Cinder Edna is so much happier because she has her priorities straight. While Ella gets the help of her Fairy Godmother and ultimately lands Prince Charming, Edna figures out a way to get to the ball herself and has a rollicking good time! Guess who lives happily ever after?

index (7)In Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer, Olivia embarks upon a quest for identity with lofty goals and being a princess is NOT one of them. Olivia is having an identity crisis. There are too many ruffly, sparkly princesses around these days, and Olivia has had quite enough. She needs to stand out. She wants to do more than just fit in. So what will she be? The answer is marvelous!

index (8)Princess Me by Karma Wilson is a rhyming story about a little girl who imagines being a princess, with her stuffed animals serving as royal subjects:

Make way! Make way!
Here comes the princess of the land. She’s sweet and kind.
She’s oh-so-grand. And just who is she, this lovely Princess Me? Come inside this book to see!

index (9)Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen is a winner, pure and simple. These princesses dig in the dirt, kick soccer balls, and splash in muddy puddles–all in their sparkly crowns. I love the rhyming text:

Not all princesses dress in pink. Some play in bright red socks that stink, blue team jerseys that don’t quite fit, accessorized with a baseball mitt, and a sparkly crown.

Don’t forget to wear your sparkly crown!

index (10)In The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke, Violetta is a little princess who wishes she could be as big and strong as her brothers. But what she lacks in size, she makes up for in determination. At night Violetta slips out into the woods and secretly teaches herself to become the cleverest, bravest, most nimble knight in the land. She’s ready to fight as a knight and wins the prize of living happily ever after.

index (11)Pirates & Princesses by Jill Kargman is the story of Ivy and Fletch who have been best friends since babyhood. They’re in for a surprise when they start kindergarten. The girls play with the girls and the boys play with the boys on the playground. Ivy likes the girls’ princess game and Fletch likes the pirate game but they miss each other. I won’t say much more other than the book is sweet, hysterically funny in its narration, and has a great message about being who you want to be regardless of gender stereotypes.

index (12)If you’d like to read an adult book on this whole pink princess idea, try Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein. The author concludes that parents who think through their values early on and set reasonable limits, encourage dialogue and skepticism, and are canny about the consumer culture, can combat the 24/7 “media machine” aimed at girls and hold off the focus on beauty, materialism, and the color pink somewhat.

Well, I hope that this list gives you a start on finding interesting and well written books for your little princesses. They surely won’t be bored, bored, bored with these great picture books!

Things That Go Bump in The Night

It was a dark and quiet night around midnight when I heard a scritch, scritch, scritch from the corner of the bedroom. Was it the dog? I stumbled over without glasses or turning on the light because I wouldn’t want to wake my dear husband, now would I? I saw something on the window screen. “Oh!  A butterfly!” I thought. “I’ll just lift up this screen and let the little fellow outside.”

“EEEKK!” the bat and I both cried at once! The little thing started circling  around the bedroom as I dropped to the floor and covered my head. “What’s wrong?” asked dear husband. “Go back to sleep,” he said. ” Bats are good.  They eat insects!” And he promptly went back to sleep.

Like fun I’d sleep with a bat flying over head! What to do? The bat was obviously attracted to light so I decided to turn on the lights in another bedroom. Bingo. Little Battie flew in there and started flying madly in circles. As I quickly shut the door, I realized that I saw the dog in there and the windows weren’t open. I summoned up the nerve to coax the dog out and sneak in and open the windows. Then I realized that I had to turn the bedroom lights off and the porch light on. The bat was still there an hour later, but hanging up near the ceiling. In the morning, he was gone.

Of course, I had to check the attic the next day and was relieved to discover that it was simply a renegade single bat and we didn’t have hoards of them living above us.

Driving to work just a day later I heard a fascinating story on NPR about bats. My fear quickly changed to fascination. Perhaps you knew that bats are the world’s only flying mammals? (Those flying squirrels actually just glide.) Their echolocation helps them to circle bedrooms at an amazing speed. You also probably knew that they eat insects, but did you know that they help pollinate plants and trees?

And though it hasn’t yet affected bats in the western U.S., a tragic disease called the White-nose Syndrome has plagued the bat population in the east. The fungus infects the bats while they hibernate. The bats go back to the caves and they get all comfy and go to sleep. And all of a sudden, they wake up itching like crazy. And they literally won’t go back to sleep. They use up their fat reserves, which are designed to get them through five or six months they are hibernating. They burn it up very quickly, and then die of starvation.  White-nose syndrome has killed millions of bats since it spread from New York, where it was first discovered six years ago. Researchers believe it came from Europe, through trade or tourism. Its spores have now been found as far west as Minnesota. My empathy for bats increased as did my desire to know more.

I searched the library for bat books and, to be honest, they are creepy because bats are, frankly, very ugly. Witness the cover of this book, Bats by Phil Richardson:

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See what I mean? Is it the fangs? The ears? The arm-wings? The total package adds up to one freaky little animal!

indexCAOCGX7ZBats in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book will answer your many questions such as:  Will bats really drink blood? How fast can bats fly? Are they related to birds? What are the largest and smallest bats? Why do they live in colonies? And the photo on the cover is blessedly small. Enough of realistic books, let’s turn to children’s picture books since they are some of the best bat books by far and bats seem so much more appealing in them!

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Stellaluna is the classic children’s picture book about a young bat who loses her mother and grows up with a family of birds. Stellaluna begins to see how different she is from her new mother and brothers and sisters when they do weird things like eat worms, sleep right-side up, and sleep at night.  Stellaluna finally meets her real mother and all the other bats and realizes why she felt like she didn’t belong with the bird family. She learns that it is alright to sleep upside down and that she is nocturnal. She finds herself.

indexCA10IP39Bat’s Big Game is a re-telling of a traditional fable from Aesop by Seattle author Margaret Read MacDonald whose books are always sure winners in my preschool story times. Bat keeps switching sides to be on the winning side of a soccer game between the animals and the birds. The other animals find his lack of loyalty distasteful and they eject Bat from the game. Kids will find Bat’s escapades entertaining, and they may also appreciate the lessons in loyalty and sportsmanship.

index (2)Bats at the Ballgame by Brian Lies has beautiful illustrations and is in my favorite category of children’s books: ones that rhyme. “Restless wings begin to itch-  excitement’s at a fever pitch. At last it’s time, and with a sigh, we hustle out to diamond sky.  Hurry up! Come one-come all! We’re off to watch the bats play ball!” This book is a home run.

index (3)Bats at the Library by Brian Lies has those little guys looking ding-dang cute. This is how it ends: “Through the window, into sky-it’s much too late – we’ve got to fly. But maybe a librarian will give us bats this chance again- and leave a window open wide to let us share the world inside!”

Like fun I will!