Life in the Nebraska Sandhills

Stunning prose and a moving story of a Nebraska family caught in its own history mark The Floor of the Sky by Pamela Carter Joern. Toby Jenkins, 72, tries to hold on to the Sears Roebuck farmhouse she's lived in since the 1920's but an opportunistic banker has profits on his mind and a ready buyer. In the midst of this crisis comes Lila, Toby's 16 year old pregnant granddaughter sent by her mother to spend her incubation time with her grandmother. Metal-studded Lila, at first angry and uncommunicative, finds solace in Toby's love and then begins to uncover secrets about Toby's youth. These characters grew on me and I began to care what happened to them.

Joern's novel is part of the Flyover Fiction series edited by Ron Hansen from the University of Nebraska Press. The Press publishes special editions and critiques of the work of Willa Cather as well as an impressive number of books on the West and Native Americans, especially the Sioux.

I Am Plastic: the Designer Toy Explosion

I Am Plastic is a large format color photographic celebration of the new age of plastic toy figures.

I have wandered through the Vault of Midnight admiring the striking plastic toys that are clearly designed for a demographic of which I am not part. I have a plastic toy Tintin with Snowy under his arm in my office and a hundred Star Wars figures (my kids’) at home. The plastic toys in this book are different from them because they are generally not from anything. They were invented as toys and are very creative, clever, and provocative.

There is a four page introductory essay at the front of the book and fifteen very brief Q & A interviews with plastic toy designers at the back of the book. The interviews have answers to “What’s in your pocket?”, “What do you eat for breakfast?”, “What’s on your iPod?” and other more directly pertinent questions such as “If you could have invented a toy or character that someone else made, what would it be and why?”

The rest of the book is great color photographs of the plastic toys arranged on a white background with small captions giving the names of the toys and the year they were created. The book is organized by country (they originated in China and Japan though the U. S. is now a major creator), then by designer.

Take a look. Pretty weird and wonderful.

Kid Bits - NEW Folklore

Don't forget the folklore for family storytimes. It's a great way to travel the world without leaving home. NEW titles in the library are The Great Race: The Story Of The Chinese Zodiac; The Hare And The Tortoise And Other Fables Of LaFontaine; and Storytime: First Tales For Sharing.

Debut Author Visits the Library

Don't miss a fabulous opportunity to meet Dinaw Mengestu as our Sunday Edition featured speaker on March 11, 2-3:30 p.m. at the Downtown Library.

A nuanced slice of immigrant life, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears* is a beautifully observed debut from Ethiopian émigré Dinaw Mengestu . (Fabulous Fiction Firsts #54).

Sepha Stephanos, fled the Ethiopian Revolution as a teenager, now he owns a neighborhood grocery store in a section of Washington, D.C going through gentrification. Evenings are spent with other African immigrants until he befriends his new neighbors - Judith, a white academic and her 11 year-old biracial daughter, Naomi.

Racial politics, changing demographics in this formerly poor African American neighborhood threatens his barely profitable shop, as well as his tentative romantic aspirations with Judith. This poignant story makes for a “heart-rending and indelible” first novel.

* = Starred Reviews in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

The media is definitely interested in this fiction rising star - just check out Jennifer Reese's article in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly and Bob Thompson's piece in the March 1st edition of the Washington Post

Got tape? Then create!

Don’t miss Duct Tape! Re-Mix at Pittsfield Tuesday, Feb. 27 from 1-3 p.m. We’ll provide the tape - in a bunch of colors from camouflage to pink - and you do the rest. Make what you want and meet other tapeheads. We’ll have duct tape books like Got Tape?: Roll out the fun with duct tape on hand for inspiration.

Thomas Lynch: “I’d rather it be February”

Now that the month is almost over, brace yourself and read (or re-read)
Thomas Lynch’s wonderful essay “Tract,” in which he wishes that February might turn out to be the month of his funeral. “With the cold behind and the cold before you and the darkness stubborn at the edges of the day. . . And a wind to make the cold more bitter. So that ever after it might be said, 'It was a sad old day we did it after all . . . '" This essay is in The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade for which Lynch – Milford’s famous undertaker and writer - won the American Book Award in 1998.

Onlies Write Fascinating Family Stories

As the mother of a solo son, I thoroughly enjoyed Only Child: Writers on the Singular Joys and Solitary Sorrows of Growing Up Solo edited by (only children) Deborah Siegel and Daphne Uviller. These essays – divided into Childhood, Significant Others and Friends, Parenting, and Tables Turned – are both entertaining and enlightening. Among my favorites was “My Jane,” by U-M’s Peter Ho Davies. At the end of the book I was left wondering, not for the first time, whether solo sons and daughters may be just as psychologically diverse as those who grow up with siblings.

Jackie's Bat by Marybeth Larbiecki

Jackie Robinson is playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers for the very first time. The batboy is told by his papa that “it aint’ right, a white boy serving a black man,” but Jackie goes on to earn the respect of his team, the fans and the batboy. Told from the point of view of Jackie Robinson’s batboy Marybeth Larbiecki scores a big one in Jackie’s Bat.

New Fiction Titles on the New York Times Best Sellers List (2/18/07)

This week there are new contenders vying for the publishing world's equivalent of the golden ring. Can they be the next Da Vinci Code?

At #3 is The Alexandria Link by Steve Berry: "A former Justice Department operative turned bookseller hides a link to the secrets of the vanished library of Alexandria from wealthy international thugs."

At #7 is Deep Storm by Lincoln Child: "A doctor investigates diseases at an ocean-floor research facility that may have discovered the ruins of Atlantis."

At #9 is Hide by Lisa Gardner: "Bobby Dodge, a former sniper with the Massachusetts State Police, now a detective, unravels a mystery that begins with the discovery of six corpses beneath a state mental hospital."

At #10 is Allegiance by Timothy Zahn: "Events that occurred between “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back” : a “Star Wars” novel."

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #53

Jude Coyne is a jaded rock star. But unlike others who collect vintage cars and McMansions, he is a collector of the bizarre and grotesque: like a stiff and worn hangman’s noose and a snuff movie. He latest prize is a ghost purchased in an auction online and delivered to his doorstep in a black Heart-Shaped Box*. The dogs were the first to go crazy, even before the UPS guy has a chance to unload the box....

Inside, is a man’s suit but before long, its previous owner is everywhere in Joe’s life – swinging a razor blade on a chain.

Joe Hill, the two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award and the Ray Bradbury Fellowship for short fiction will grab you with this terrifying and relentless supernatural thriller. For Edgar Allen Poe fans. Film rights sold to Warner Brothers. Joe Hill is the pen name for Joe King (son of Stephen).

* = Starred Reviews

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