Get Twiggy With It

Are you pumped for this weekend’s big program Wooly Woods Crafting With Anna Hrachovec (of Mochimochi Land)?! Teens & adults will wrap twigs with yarn to make beautiful sculptures, as well as knit tiny creatures to live on them. Yes, twigs! Let me tell you, I know from experience that wrapping sticks with yarn is addicting, and the talented Anna takes it up a notch.

If you’re inspired to find more twig action, I recommend the book Super Simple Twig Projects: Fun and Easy Crafts Inspired By Nature. It's just that. A small youth-oriented book with some easy projects made of collected sticks and twigs. It goes over what supplies you’ll need to make things like trivets, dream catchers, baskets, vases, tiny rafts, and more. The question is: What if you wrap the twigs with yarn before you craft with them?

Adventure + Spirituality = Steps Out of Time

Several months back, Kate Soper gave me her book with this note tucked inside: "...I'm not sure what you'll think about this book! But my experience on the Camino meant a lot to me and I'd like to share it with you so here goes!" Full disclosure: I am a friend of Kate. That said, I also very much admire her book, Steps Out of Time: One Woman's Journey on the Camino.

Her spirited memoir is an account of a month-long, 500-mile hike across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela. The narrative sparkles with natural beauty, camaraderie, memorable food, and the author’s personal determination to accomplish something magnificent. When she completed the hike, Kate was a changed woman.

Lots of research was done for this book, allowing Kate to offer practical advice including "12 Essential Tips for Santiago Pilgrims:" 1) Pack only lightweight, quick-drying clothing that you can layer. 2) Take well-fitting, well-used, and well-loved footwear, including good-quality, high-performance socks. 3) Your fully-loaded pack should weigh the lesser of 8 kg (17.6 lbs) or 10 percent of your body weight. (This includes a liter of water and the weight of the pack.). 4) Leave your phone at home. Ditto all other nonessentials. 5) Never leave in the morning without filling your water bottle and always carry food in your pack. 6) Wear a hat; keep your legs and arms covered or use sunscreen. 7) Bring a mechanical pencil and a lightweight journal (tearing off the cover will save a few ounces); write in it every day. 8) Unless you can sleep through noise equivalent to a freight train, bring ear plugs (snorers abound). 9) Be prepared to be humbled. 10) Remain determined to be open-minded. 11) Stop often to look and listen. 12) Try to be present in every moment.

This book is a great read and would well in a book group. Kate is retired and lives in Ann Arbor with her husband. She has worked as a lawyer, language professor, and U-M administator, among other jobs.

Mo’s Mustache

The world needs mo mustaches and Mo’s Mustache by Ben Clanton is a charming and funny new picture book that brings us MANY stylish and silly ‘staches. The awesome Mo is a trendsetter and his ‘stache styles are copied by many and Mo worries that he won’t stand out anymore. Can you be unique and still have the same mustache as those around you?!

Does YOUR ‘stache stand out?! For Mo and other mustache picture books here’s a handy dandy list for you.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #467: "And, too ignorant to be scared, too young to be awed, ...” ~ Neil Gaiman, Stardust

Three fable-like tales of awesome, irrepressible young protagonists from far-flung corners of the world - they will make you laugh, move you to tears, and inspire you to “Do one thing every day that scares you.” (~ Eleanor Roosevelt)

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden * by Jonas Jonasson, a "funny and completely implausible farce about a woman, a bomb and a man's frustrated ambition to overthrow the King of Sweden."

14-year-old latrine cleaner Nombeko Mayeki is exceptionally good at her job but she has grander plans. Cunning and fearless, she blackmails a sleazy criminal into teaching her how to read and write, and gets herself out of apartheid-era Soweto as a housemaid to a nuclear engineer, an incompetent fool who intends to send the Israeli Mossad a 1,700-pound atomic bomb. After a series of mishaps, Nombeko is forced to cart the bomb around Sweden, trying to prevent an idiot anarchist from blowing up the king.

"In this wild romp, Jonasson tackles issues ranging from the pervasiveness of racism to the dangers of absolute power while telling a charming and hilarious story along the way. In the satiriical voice that has earned him legions of fans the world over, Jonasson gives us another rollicking tale of how even the smallest of decisions can have sweeping, even global consequences."

"Beautifully written, filled with detailed prose meant to be savored," The Patron Saint of Ugly by Marie Manilla, is "a captivating reminder of the blurred line between myth and reality. "

Born in Sweetwater, West Virginia with a mop of flaming red hair and port-wine stains on every surface of her body, Garnet Ferrari's sharp tongue serves her well against bullies and aggressors but powerless against legions of pilgrims camping outside her hilltop home, convinced she is a healer and maker of miracles.

Now the Vatican has sent Father Archibald Gormley, an emissary to investigate. "With its irresistible and irreverent blend of Southern Gothic and Sicilian "malocchio," a lush, exuberant tale of a reluctant saint, her unforgettable family, and the myriad difficulties (some real, some imagined) we all face when it comes to loving and being loved."

"(C)lever, funny, heartbreaking, and heartwarming, all at once."

Chaplin & Company by Mave Fellowes - a FFF for this UK author who herself had lived along the London canals.

18 yr.-old Odeline Milk packs up her worldly goods and heads for London, to pursue her single-minded dream of becoming, of all things, a great mime. With the small inheritance left by her mother, she buys sight-unseen, Chaplin and Company, a longboat moored at the canal neighborhood of Little Venice.

There she stumbles upon a peculiar underbelly of the city, full of marginalized, eccentric figures with whom she begins to form unpredictable alliances. Little by little she finds herself an essential part of this community of outsiders, discovers the value of companionship and, more important, the depths of her own courage.

"An endearing and surprisingly steely debut that paints the bizarre and the ordinary with equal sincerity, Chaplin & Company is a novel that reveals beauty in the most unlikely of places."

* = starred review

Scary Murder Mystery – With Ghosts!

In the mood for something spooky this summer? Then give The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud a try.

This unusual murder mystery is set in an alternative England where ghosts have grown more and more active in the last few decades and Psychic Detection Agencies like Lockwood & Co. employ talented young agents to track down and destroy the sources of these hauntings. When Lucy and her fellow Lockwood & Co. agents uncover an unsolved murder while searching for the source of a haunting, they decide to solve the mystery with the help of the victim’s locket…but someone is out to make sure they never solve this case.

Full of adventure and genuinely scary encounters with ghosts, this story may be written for children but it is not for the faint of heart. Recommended for fans of Alvin Schwartz’s scary stories or older readers who enjoyed Libba Bray’s The Diviners.

Audiobook fans may also wish to check out the audiobook of The Screaming Staircase, which was named one of ALA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2014.

Cool Summer Drinks

When you think of a cool, refreshing drink that you'd like to have on a hot, summer day you think of lemonade, right? Or maybe iced tea.

But there is a lesser known, fizzy drink great for summer known as kombucha. It sort of tastes like a cross between carbonated water and tea. You can even add juice to it. There is another side benefit to drinking kombucha: It's fermented! You make it be starting with some tea that has loads of sugar in it. After adding a probiotic yeast and bacterial colony (known as a SCOBY mother) and letting it sit for several days to weeks, the probiotics break down the sugar into acids so that by the time you drink it, it's very low in sugar. With every cup you get loads of healthy bacteria and B-complex vitamins. Talk about healthy! There is a book that shows you how to make it at home here and here.

It’s summer so a lot of Ann Arborites are growing a vegetable garden. I know I am! But what if your garden is doing so well that you have armfuls of veggies that you don't know what to do with? A great way to get some awesome nutrition or to use up extra veggies and dark leafy greens is to make smoothies or juices. For a great smoothie all you need is a blender and a knife to cut up the toughest pieces. "But won't that taste icky?" I can hear you say. Fear not! The sweet fruit you add makes the bitter taste of vegetables like kale hardly detectable. Try it and I bet you'll be a smoothie addict in no time.

The End of Night

"To go in the dark with a light is to know the light. To know the dark, go dark.
Go without sight, and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings, and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
" Wendell Berry

The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light by Paul Bogard reminds us of the primal experience we are mostly living without these days: a dark night. Complete darkness enhances the health and vitality of humans through hormonal balance, improved sleep, reduced incidence of cancer and, most importantly to Bogard, by the wondrous, magical connection it enables to stars and the night sky. When was the last time you saw the Milky Way, shooting stars, or a constellation besides Orion? Think of the relationship our ancestors had with stars and darkness and you can sense what we are missing. Bogard’s book is enthralling and passionate.

Did you know that here in Michigan we have a rare and beautiful park where a completely dark night sky is protected, a sanctuary for darkness, where your eyes can actually switch to night vision? You can visit the Headlands International Dark Sky Park on the shores of Lake Michigan 365 days a year for free. The sixth park of its kind to be established in this country and the ninth in the world, you can find programs, trails and….stars.

Here’s a little test. When looking from space, where do you think is the brightest, most illuminated spot on the planet? Check here for the answer.

Running Like a Girl and other great books for runners of all types

Finally, a book that deals honestly with both the gains AND the pains that being a runner entails! Running Like a Girl: notes on learning to run, by Alexandra Heminsley, is a refreshing take on starting to run later in life, and on a runner’s life in general. For many of us—even those who are dedicated runners—the perspectives that we were “born to run” or that “running is a wonderful way to reconnect with the world and our bodies” don’t always ring true. Sometimes it feels like, more often than not, running can be painful, boring, difficult, or lonely, and frequently a combination of all four. This is why Heminsley’s story of taking up running in her thirties is so great. It doesn’t come easily to her, and she doesn’t love it. She doesn’t experience immediate gratifcation from a “runners high,” nor does she immediately lose twenty pounds. Her relationship with running is complex, and only becomes ultimately positive over time, and in ways that she did not anticipate. This book is great for runners of all sorts: those who have been running for decades, those who have just taken up the sport, and those who don’t run at all and therefore don’t even know yet that they can be runners!

If you’re interested in other books about running, try What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: a memoir, Running Away and the famous Once a Runner, about one runner’s quest to run a sub-4:00 minute mile. Finally, if you’re looking for scenic local places to run, check out Five-star Trails, Ann Arbor and Detroit, where you can find suggestions for trails to check out nearby. Happy running!

Bletchley Circle

Do you love watching mysteries but feel like the genre is a little heavy handed with the male detective? If so, check out Bletchley Circle! With an extraordinary flair for code breaking and razor-sharp intelligence skills, four seemingly ordinary women become the unlikely investigators of a string of grisly murders in this original thriller, set against the backdrop of post-war London.

Season 1 introduces us to Susan. Her conventionality masks a sharp, inquisitive mind. She may appear every inch the typical 1950s wife and mother, but when she hears about a string of unsolved murders in London, Susan’s old Bletchley spirit is ignited. Secretly, Susan reconvenes the formidable foursome – bohemian and streetwise Millie; Lucy, with her brilliant photographic memory and Jean, the methodical no-nonsense organizer. A race against the clock ensues as the women work to outwit the culprit. Can they rekindle their singular expertise and discover the killer’s next move – before he strikes again?

Season 2 opens with the episode Blood on Their Hands. Former Bletchley Park girl Alice Merren is in prison awaiting trial for murder. Jean stands behind her innocence and tries to reunite the circle in an attempt to help one of their own. Lucy is now getting on well in a clerical job at Scotland Yard and keeping her head down, and Millie is working as a German translator. Susan is reluctant to get involved after the occurrences in season 1. The second episode Uncustomed Goods, Millie branches out into what she believes to be a harmless sideline of dealing in uncustomed goods. This endeavor leads to her being kidnapped and held in a seedy hotel by some gangsters. On discovering this, Alice goes to Jean and Lucy to help. The girls start to investigate in order to save their friend and, as they do so, uncover a much darker, hidden world of crime.

Summer Reading Lists

Instead of the lists and lists that the NPR staff put together each year to launch your summer reading, this year they tried something utterly ingenious. They focused on literary travel - by train, plane, car, bike, boat, foot, city transit, horse, balloon, rocketship, time machine and even a giant peach. It is called Book Your Trip. Try it out.

Librarian Extraordinaire Nancy Pearl shared her favorites in Maps Out A Plan For Your Summer Reading.

LA Times Summer Books Preview 2014 has just about everything to tickle your reading fancy - from Fiction, Mystery & Thriller, SF & Fantasy, Biography & Memoir, Sports, Pop Culture, to Science and Lifestyle. There are lists for the young readers in your life.

Publishers Weekly's Best Summer Books.

Confounded by too many choices? Glamour Magazine has The 10 Best Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List.

Looking ahead, you could get a jump on the Fall movie tie-ins.

Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association offers lists of book titles to keep children engaged in reading all summer. BONUS : Each list is available to download for free in color and black and white. Bring them on your next trip to the library.

Syndicate content