About Leslie

When I'm not reading non-fiction or a good novel, I read a lot of picture books to myself, my grandchildren, and children at the library.

Summer Reading, Having a Blast!

Book and StonesI’ve signed up for the Adult Summer Reading Program at the Everett Public Library and I’m super happy about my reading stack this summer. I’ve only read three so far, but I’m excited to get some time to read and also to share the whole pile with you. Here goes!

indexIf you’re pining for the old days when you could ride your pony to the candy store, I recommend Elizabeth Lett’s book The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation. This book tells the dramatic odyssey of a horse called Snowman, saved from the slaughterhouse by a young Dutch farmer named Harry. Harry and Snowman went on to become America’s show-jumping champions, winning first prize in Madison Square Garden. Set in the mid-to late-1950s, this book also includes a fair amount of history of the horse. I dare you not to cry when Snowy dies.

indexUnder the Wide and Starry Sky is the fictionalized account of the relationship of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson and his spunky, older American wife Fanny. It is beautifully written and meticulously researched. This novel met all of my criteria for good historical fiction: believable characters, atmospheric setting, and it leaves you wanting to know even more about the people, places, and events. Besides, the boat that they adventured in is right here on the waterfront in Everett.

index (3)Shadows in the Vineyard: the True Plot to Poison the World’s Greatest Wine is by Maximillien Potter. On the surface, it is a true story of an extortion plot against the world’s greatest vineyard, a tiny patch of land in Burgundy, France which grows the universally acclaimed best wine in the world. But it’s also the story of the family that grows the wine: the generations that have owned and run the vineyard, treating the vines like their own children, back to when they bought it after the French Revolution. Cheers!

index (1)A Hero of France: A Novel by Alan Furst is set in Paris,1941. Mathieu leads a small group of Resistance fighters. They help British airmen stranded in occupied France to make their way to Spain and then return to England. It’s dangerous work. Mathieu has to rely on his instincts to know who he can trust. He also needs to build a network of people he can rely on and be able to rapidly improvise when things don’t go according to plan (which is pretty much all the time). Meanwhile, a top German detective has arrived in Paris tasked with identifying and arresting members of the Resistance.

index (2)Seinfeldia: How a Show about Nothing Changed Everything by Jennifer Armstrong is about nothing and everything. If you are a Seinfeld fan this is a MUST READ! It goes in depth on the genesis of Seinfeld from its main characters, the writers and the real-life situations that inspired most of the insane plot lines. It follows the show from it’s inception to finale, including the “reunion” on Curb Your Enthusiasm as well as the effect that Seinfeld has on pop culture even to this day.

index (3)I am listening to Here’s To Us by Elin Hildebrand and it looks like the perfect summer read, doesn’t it? Deacon Thorpe was a famous bad boy chef. When he dies at his Nantucket house, his agent calls his three ex-wives together to the house to say goodbye. The story is told by several characters and switches from the present to the past. Secrets are revealed and at the end the family learns to forgive. This is a quick read with some interesting characters.

index (5)I’m also listening to The National Parks: America’s Best Idea by Ken Burns because we recently drove down to Rainier. Burns and Dayton Duncan delve into the history of the park idea, from the first sighting by white men in 1851 of the valley that would become Yosemite and the creation of the world’s first national park at Yellowstone in 1872, to the most recent additions to a system that now encompasses nearly four hundred sites and 84 million acres. There’s a lot of history and adventure here to be enjoyed. Going to Glacier? Grab these CD’s for the car ride.

index (6)Everyone Brave is Forgiven is by Chris Cleave, the best-selling author of Little Bee.  The plot centers on three Londoners (Mary, Thomas and Alistair) and how the war orchestrates the choices they make. The story is loosely based on love letters between the author’s grandparents. The beauty of this book is not so much the plot, but how the story is told with beautiful prose, cleverly placed humor, and a quiet urgency. It would make a good book club book.

index (4)And lastly, a co-worker suggested Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart the gal who wrote The Drunken Botanist. It is a novel based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs. Apparently it’s “really good”, so good, in fact, that there will be a sequel titled Lady Cop Makes Trouble. I haven’t actually gotten my hands on this one, but will have to wait. Without a gun.

Well, gotta go. I hear a hammock calling my name. What’s on your reading list this summer? Come on down to the library and check out these and other great summer reads. See you there!

Reading for Empathy

indexThe 2016 summer reading assignment for Whitman College freshmen  is to read the book Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison. It is a collection of essays that explore empathy, beginning with her experience as a medical actor who was paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose. Jamison’s essays ask essential questions about our basic understanding of others: Why should we care about each other? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other? How can my child become more empathetic? How important is reading fiction in socializing children? How does reading literature move people in a different way than non-fiction reading?

Researchers at The New School in New York City have found evidence that literary fiction improves a reader’s capacity to understand what others are thinking and feeling. And a Cambridge University study by Maria Nikolajeva, professor of education, found that “reading fiction provides an excellent training for young people in developing and practising empathy and theory of mind, that is, understanding of how other people feel and think.” Finding the right book is the first step to helping children understand what their peers may be thinking and feeling.

index (1)I once had a father who wanted a book for his young son who was starting to bully another boy in preschool partly because the new boy was from another country. I came up with I’m New Here by Anne O’Brien, in which three children from Somalia, Guatemala, and Korea struggle to adjust to their new home and school in the United States. It is positive and uplifting, as they do all make new friends and succeed at the end of the book.

index (2)The book that I thought of after the father had walked away was Children Just Like Me by Anabel Kindersley. Photographs and text depict the homes, schools, family lives, and cultures of young people from around the world. Children will enjoy reading about the dreams and beliefs, hopes and fears, and day-to-day events of other children’s lives. Children are encouraged to participate in a special pen pal arrangement, so they may share their own experiences with children in other countries.

index (1)Another book along these lines is A Life Like Mine: How Children Live Around the World by DK Publishing. Wonderful photos show children from all over the world leading their lives in completely different and fascinating ways. They speak different languages, look different, and face all kinds of challenges every day. Although they live thousands of miles apart, in so many ways their needs and hopes are alike. Meet these special children in this book and other books created by UNICEF and DK Publishing.

index (2)A fascinating ‘look-at’ book is What the World Eats by Peter Menzel. This is a  photographic collection exploring what the world eats featuring portraits of twenty-five families from twenty-one countries surrounded by a week’s worth of food. The resulting family portraits give an interesting glimpse into the cultural similarities and differences served on dinner plates around the world.

index (3)One of my favorite picture books is Stella’s Starliner by Rosemary Wells. Stella is perfectly happy living in her silver home until a group of weasels tease her for living in an air stream trailer. Her bubble is burst but her parents help her by moving the trailer to a new setting where she meets two bunnies who think that her home is awesome and that she must be really rich to live in a silver home. You’ll just love Stella and her story.

indexLast Stop on Market Street won both the Caldecott Honor Award and the Newberry Medal this year. Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty–and fun–in their routine and the world around them.

Reading is a great way to understand another’s situation or feelings. When you read, you walk a mile in another’s shoes and get an idea of his feelings and situation. I hope that these books (and others that we have at the library) will help your child empathize with others.

On Your Mark, Get Set… Read!

 

2016 Summer Reading Logs

Summer Reading Program 2016!

Beginning June 1, children, teens and adults can sign up for Summer Reading and pick up a reading log at the library. School-aged students can start tracking their summer reading as soon as their school lets out for the summer. There are three great reasons to participate in your library’s Summer Reading program:

  1. Summer reading helps stop the “Summer Reading Slide.” If students don’t read all summer long, it’s a sure thing that their reading levels will slide down when they are measured in the fall. Summer reading makes you smarter!
  2. You get prizes!
  3. It’s fun!

There are three age categories for Summer Reading this year: Juvenile, Youth, and Adult. Juvenile is for newborns through grade 5. Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers participate by listening to books being read out loud. The Youth reading log is for students going into grades 6-12; and Adults ages 17 and up have a special reading log of their own.

Last summer, we signed up almost 2,000 children and teens for Summer Reading. Our all-time record is 2,510 participants, set in 2013. Please help us set a new record this year – sign up for Summer Reading!

The Everett Public School District  is also asking students to track their summer reading. Students are welcome to keep two reading logs. The same reading can count for school and count towards earning incentives at the public library. Double prizes.

So, grab a book and start reading! Can’t decide what to read? Our librarians can help. Let us suggest new authors or titles you might enjoy.

Also, take a look at our calendar of library events. Our summer schedule is full of activities and all of them are free. For some events, advanced registration is recommended and begins June 1.

For more information call Youth Services at 425-257-8030, the Adult Reference Desk at 425-257-8000 or stop by the library.

Read To, Make that Read WITH, a Child

index (7)Everyone knows that reading together with children is the single most important way to help them get ready to read, but I often hear care-givers reading to children in very boring, monotone voices as if they just want to get through the book quickly and be done with it. I may be preaching to the choir, but I would like to encourage a more enjoyable way for one on one sharing of books with young children.

It’s called dialogic reading. In dialogic reading, the adult helps the child become the teller of the story. The adult becomes the listener, the questioner, and the audience for the child. This is way more interesting for the child (and the adult). No one can learn to play the piano just by listening to someone else play. Likewise, no one can learn to read just by listening to someone else read. Children learn most from books when they are actively involved in the reading process.

In dialogic reading, the book is a conversation starter. Ask open-ended questions such as “What’s this?” or “Tell me about this.” Follow answers with another question or an expansion of what the child has said. For example, “Yes, that’s a frog.  A big, green frog.”  You can also make connections to past experiences or future events: “When did you?”  “How do you feel when?” With dialogic reading, the book is a springboard to a conversation and greater learning. It’s not a race to get through the book. Maybe you’ll read just two pages. But, boy, the fun you’ll have!

indexThere’s a whole mess of interactive books which make dialogic reading really easy. They have the questions and interaction built right into the story and these books are a good way to start your dialogic reading adventure. The idea of interactive books has been around a long time. Think of Pat the Bunny. The child is already actively patting that bunny, so have her tell you what color the bunny might be and what the bunny is doing.

index (1)Jan Thomas has written some great books for children and Can You Make a Scary Face? is awesome! Lady bug invites the reader to play a game of let’s pretend: what kind of face would you make if a tickly green bug were sitting on your nose? Or if it were–eek!–inside your shirt? Could you make a scary face to frighten it away? Or, even better, stand up and do the chicken dance? Yes? Then better get to it!

Tap the Magic Treeindex (2) by Matheson is a wonderfully fun interactive picture book about the changing seasons. We had so much fun with this one in storytime because the children felt like they were doing magic. Tap the tree and a leaf grows! Tap again and there’s a blossom. Tap once more and there’s an apple. Again, and the autumn leaves fall. Give it a try tap.

 

Touch the Brightest Starindex (3) is Matheson’s latest offering and is a beautifully illustrated interactive book. Lots of touching, tapping, and swiping changes the scene from dusk – through the night – and then to the new dawn. The text is simple and quiet, the illustrations lovely. There is a glossary in the back that explains all the things the reader found in the night sky as well as the night animals that appear. This is a great cuddle and read before bed book.

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Herve Tullet has become a master of the interactive book. In Press Here, you press the dot on the cover and launch yourself into a journey where a book responds to your touch without any flaps, pop-ups or electronics. Follow the directions on each page, turn the page and see what happens next. This is a book that is simple in concept and beautifully executed in design. Readers will enjoy making the dots big by clapping their hands, moving the dots around the page by shaking the book, and turning off the lights by pushing the yellow dots hard. Tullet also wrote Mix it Up and Help! We Need a Title!  and Let’s Play!

A great way to start dialogic reading is to use a wordless picture book. There are so many in the library that it’s hard to single any out, but we can help you find them.

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Remember, dialogic reading is children and adults having a conversation about a book. Any book. It doesn’t have to be the ones on this list. Be relaxed about straying from the content of the book to interesting events in the child’s life. Children will enjoy dialogic reading more than traditional reading as long as you…

  • mix up prompts with straight reading
  • vary what you do from reading to reading
  • follow the child’s interest

Keep it light. Don’t push children with more prompts than they can handle happily. Keep it fun! Come on down to the children’s room and get some great picture books today.

Before the Wind

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Most people have never sailed.  So when you take them out, they wear clumsy shoes and start calling you Ahab or Bligh.  Or if they’re particularly nervous, they’ll quote Whitman- Captain my Captain!- and shout Bon voyage! or talk like pirates, as if this were the freshest improv:  Arrrggh!  Keelhaul the Wrench!  They’ll offer to help, but what they really want to know is where to sit and what to hold on to and when you’ll get them a drink.  –Before the Wind

You don’t need to know how to sail to enjoy Jim Lynch’s latest novel Before the Wind. Just get a drink, sit yourself down and prepare to be immersed in this creative, vividly detailed, emotional and gripping family story set in the world of boats driven by the wind. Lynch introduces readers to a cast of characters as varied and different as things can get. These characters have a lot of talents, but it’s up to all of them to keep their family together and a boat race might just be the best bet for that.

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The Family on ‘Flair’

But, if you do come from a sailing family, well, watch out! You’ll be buying copies of this book for Father’s Day or birthdays. When I asked my husband what were the highlights of his family boating history, he talked for half of an hour before taking a breath.  It started with his Dad attending the Naval Academy, romancing Mother on a sailboat while in medical school and starting many remarkable family sailing traditions. There were the sailing camps for two weeks each summer on Tulalip Bay, the races on Puget Sound (even to Hawaii one year on the Victoria to Maui race) and the family cruises on Flair and later, bigger boats.  My husband was the baby of the family and had to sleep with his head right by the head. For the longest time he thought that’s why it’s called a head. Well, he also thought that there were eight days in the week thanks to the Beatles.

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Sailing Lazers on Tulalip Bay (Red boats are in!)

My own memories of sailing over the years include wonderful weeks on the water with babies and children and their parents and grandparents. We’d dock at places like Ovens Island in Canada or Henry Island in the San Juans, go for a swim, harvest oysters from the beach and play cards and eat and drink and just enjoy the heck out of ourselves.Think camping, but on the water.

 

And then there are the frantic sailing moments like the time we were racing Swiftsure, a race from Victoria out to the Swiftsure Light boat and back. We had the spinnaker up but there was too much wind, so we needed to take it down and put up the smaller one. Well, snafus happen, and they were both up at once and we were ‘slapped down’ with the mast parallel to the water. Now, the thing you worry about is losing someone overboard or having a big piece of equipment break and knock someone out. Neither happened, and it’s a good thing because a tugboat was just coming around race rocks towards us. (Tugboats have the right of way.) Yikes! Well, we all lived to tell the tale and I’m sure that my father-in-law is cringing that I told that particular story.

Enough of my sailing yarns, let’s get back to Lynch’s tale. Narrated by Josh, the adult middle child of the famous boat-building Johanssens of Puget Sound, the family also includes the domineering father who drives his children to excel at racing, the hot-headed oldest brother Bernard and  the youngest Johanssen Ruby who is a gifted sailor. There’s also a mom who is a high school physics teacher who “might have understood Einstein better than she did us and never passed up an opportunity to explain and extol him.” And then there’s Grumps (the grandfather), the boatyard crew who work with Josh (one of which loves to quote from the March of the Penguins) and the characters at the rundown marina where Josh lives who all try to get him to fix their boats. There’s a lot of humor and some sadness in this novel and it is totally enjoyable.

Sailor or not, you need to get your hands on Jim Lynch’s new novel Before the Wind. You’ll love it. Tack on down to your local library and pick up a copy when it is finally out on April 19th. Bon Voyage!

Scandinavian Crime or Not?

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Did you like the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo books or the Kurt Wallander series? Well, here’s a great tip from my good friend Chris: Read all of the Department Q novels you can get your hands on. Chris told me that they are riveting mysteries and the characters are “just so well-developed.” I took her advice and checked out the first in the series and my husband and I have been hooked ever since.

Department Q is a series of crime thriller novels by Danish novelist Jussi Adler-Olsen. The series follows Carl Morck, one of the best homicide detectives in Copenhagen who has been ‘promoted’ to head the cold case department. This series originally began in Danish with Kvinden i buret in 2007. In 2011, it was translated into English and published in the UK as Mercy and in the USA as The Keeper of Lost Causes.

Olsen is Denmark’s #1 crime writer and this book, the first in the series, makes it quite evident why. His writing style flows smoothly, keeping the pace of the story moving along while providing back story and strong characterization. His main character, Carl, is an acerbic and difficult man but a brilliant detective. He has just returned to work after an attack at a crime scene that left one of his colleagues dead and another paralyzed – Carl was hit in the head by a bullet and has been out for several months. Upon his return, he has set himself to do as little as possible; all interest in his career is gone. So Carl’s boss puts him in charge of  Department Q, which is designed to look into long-cold cases. The first case Carl starts with is the disappearance of Merete Lynggaard, a politician who disappeared five years ago from a ferry on the way to Germany. It was believed that she fell overboard – either deliberately on her part, or by accident – and the case was left unsolved. Carl starts digging into it and finds many things left unchecked; maybe she’s still alive.

The story is lightened by Carl’s assistant Hafez el-Assad, called Assad.  Assad is both comic relief and a very intriguing character. He demonstrates great insight into detective work and has amazing contacts and capabilities which generates interest about his mysterious past. Carl and Assad make a great team, their opposing characters bounce off each other as each gains greater respect for the other.

This fabulous book has everything one could want in a thriller: twists and turns and fantastic descriptions of the victim’s suffering. The point of view alternates between the present, with Carl investigating the disappearance and with the past, as we watch (and cheer for and worry about) the victim as she waits for her death or for Carl to finally rescue her.

Good news! There are five more great Department Q novels waiting for you once you finish the first:

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indexSo, if you don’t like crime mysteries, there’s still a Scandinavian option for you. A Man Called Ove is the first novel of Swedish author Fredrik Backman. Simply put, Ove is a human version of the Grumpy Cat, claws and all. One of my favorite quotes pertains to his relationship with the neighborhood stray, and at the same time paints a very accurate picture of Ove as a character:

It was five to six in the morning when Ove and the cat met for the first time. The cat instantly disliked Ove exceedingly. The feeling was very much reciprocated.

Forced into early retirement at the age of 59, recently widowed and quietly missing his wife Sonja, Ove finds that his highly structured world is becoming devoid of meaning. A man for whom the concept of things being either black or white (Ove drives a Saab and anyone driving a BMW is not to be trusted) comes naturally, he quickly arrives at a decision that would solve the problem his new living situation presents. The only thing he does not take into account is the ongoing disruption of his plans in the form of his new next door neighbor, a whirlwind called Parvaneh and her family. In between numerous disturbances to Ove’s little universe, we keep getting glimpses not only into what hides behind his grumpiness, but also into his past and the events that shaped both his life and him as a person.  This is a book similar to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Try it.

Come on down to the library and check out these books for your own mini-vacation to Scandinavia. Farvel!

Great New Films

oscarsWhile on a long plane flight home last week, I watched every single film trailer to get the scoop on the latest movies for you. Oscar season is upon us and there are a lot of excellent titles that you can borrow from your library. For your benefit, I have also researched reviews of these films and have listed them in order of popularity with the critics and the public alike. Here goes!

index (1)Iris is about fashion icon Iris Apfel: the quick-witted, flamboyantly dressed 93-year-old style maven with an out-sized presence on the New York & Palm Beach fashion scenes. Despite the abundance of glamour in her current life, Iris continues to embrace the values and work ethic established in her middle-class Queens upbringing during the Great Depression. If you are a fan of documentaries, art, fashion, individuality or life-long love, borrow this brilliant film!  Great quote:  “My mother worshiped at the altar of accessories!”

 

index (2)Do you like Hitchcock? The Gift is a smart  thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. In fact, it was just too scary for my husband so we had to turn it off.  Simon and Robyn are a young married couple whose life is going just as planned until a chance encounter with an acquaintance from Simon’s high school sends their world into a harrowing tailspin. This is not a story about one individual following a family; it’s about the past following you. “You think you’re done with the past, but the past is not done with you.”

 

index (4)Bridge of Spies stars Tom Hanks as the American attorney tasked with negotiating the release of a U-2 spy plane pilot who was shot down over Russia at the height of the Cold War in this historical drama. Everyone likes this movie and it’s going to be shown at Everett Public Library (February 27th at noon at the Evergreen Branch) as part of Oscar Fest 2016! It is directed by Steven Spielberg and has been nominated for Best Picture. You don’t want to miss this one!

 

index (5)Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation  stars the other Tom (Cruise). You’re hooked right from the start with a jaw-dropping opening sequence which looks completely free of computer generated imagery, and a great but sinister twist on the iconic mission briefing. From there, it’s a fun roller coaster ride and although there are plenty of twists and turns to keep the audience guessing, it stays coherent. There were more than a few improbable moments and the bad guys suffer terribly from an inability to shoot straight, but if you’re ready to suspend your disbelief on occasion, it’s a fun movie. Get into the hold line for this popular action film.

 

index (6)Of course, The Martian is a wildly popular movie and deservedly so because the book was so great. After a bad storm blows across Mars, astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead and left behind. Now stuck on a hostile planet he must find a way to signal to Earth and in the meantime, survive on limited supplies. Smart, thrilling, and surprisingly funny, The Martian offers a faithful adaptation of the book that brings out the best in leading man Matt Damon who has been nominated for Best Actor.

 

index (7)Straight Outta Compton is super violent and super profane, but also super popular. It is a very well-directed, provocative and comprehensive biopic that shines with exquisite camera movements and amazing performances to tell this compelling story of the five young men who popularized the gangsta rap movement that came up in the 1980’s. Using brutally honest rhymes and hardcore beats, they put their frustration and anger about life into the most powerful weapon they had: their music. Up for Best Original Screenplay.

 

index (8)Trainwreck is super funny and a decent romantic comedy. It is a typical Judd Apatow movie with its heart in the right place, flawed characters, truthfulness with sharp humor, and hilarious work from Amy Schumer. Amy is a party girl who starts to wonder if there may be something to the monogamy thing when she starts to have feelings for the charming and successful doctor (Bill Hader) she is interviewing for an article. If you liked Bridesmaids, this one’s for you.

 

index (9)Ant Man stars Paul Rudd (Love him!) fully aware of the silliness of someone shrinking down to insect size while remaining a threat to human beings. The last Marvel film of phase 2 decides to just have fun with the concept. The showdown makes great use of the possibilities of people shrinking and growing back to size within seconds and makes for one of the smallest and funniest end fights in movie history.

 

11191454_oriEvergreen Branch Manager Alan loved Mistress America. This is a wonderful movie filled with excellent performances, some hilarious lines,a fantastic screenplay and sophisticated dialogue, wonderful score and such a big heart. Tracy is a lonely college freshman in New York, having neither the exciting university experience nor the glamorous metropolitan lifestyle she envisioned. But then she is taken in by her soon to be stepsister, Brooke, and she is rescued from her disappointment. Heartwarming!

 

indexSVHM9DYNAloha stars Bradley Cooper as a celebrated military contractor returning to the site of his greatest career triumph, the U.S. space program in Honolulu, Hawaii. This romantic comedy has something for everyone: love, a space rocket story and a beautiful island setting. It didn’t get great reviews, but I liked it because of the Hawaiian setting and, hey, Bradley Cooper. It is at the bottom of this list, but still worth your time.

 

That’s all folks! Check out these films and others at the Everett Public Library.