Oscar Nominations are in!

Crash was the big surprise this morning earning several key nominations including best picture, along with Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Munich, and Good Night, and Good Luck. Other surprises: George Clooney is now officially a serious actor and filmmaker and King Kong was left out in the cold.

See the complete list of Oscar nominations and tell us what you think.

Barnyard Chuckles

Who couldn't use a giggle or two during these gray days of winter?

Two recent picture books that both take place in the barnyard are sure to provide laughter for both children and the adults that read to them.

Punk Farm by Jarrett Krosoczka is about a rock band (cow, pig, goat, sheep and chicken) that swings into action when Farmer Joe goes off to bed. The concert will have all readers and listeners singing along.

Chicks and Salsa by Aaron Reynolds will have readers rushing off to the kitchen in search of munchies. This is the story of what happens to a normally quiet barnyard after the rooster sneaks up to the farmhouse and sees an episode of a cooking show on television.

For more barnyard antics, also check out Doreen Cronin's classics Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type and Giggle, Giggle, Quack.

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert takes the reader on an imaginary journey of a leaf with two acorns for eyes and a burr for a mouth. The beautiful collage pictures of ducks, geese and prairie animals accentuate the simple text with the refrain "A Leaf Man's got to go where the wind blows."

2006 Michigan Notable Books, part 1 -- Non-fiction winners

MI notable books 2006

The Library of Michigan announced the winners of the 2006 Michigan Notable Books. These twenty titles, all published last year, highlight “…Michigan people, places and events.” They must be written by a Michigan native or resident and are wide-reaching in coverage.

On the list this year are 14 non-fiction titles, four novels, and two children’s books. The winners in alphabetical order are:

Non-fiction

Beast of Never, Cat of God: The Search for the Eastern Puma by Bob Butz

Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink by David Margolick

Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans by Thomas Lynch

The Dodge Brothers: The Men, the Motor Cars, and the Legacy by Charles K. Hyde

Grit, Noise, and Revolution: The Birth of Detroit Rock 'n' Roll by David A. Carson

Legends of Light: A Michigan Lighthouse Portfolio photographs by Ed Wargin

Made in Detroit: A South of 8 Mile Memoir by Paul Clemens

Michigan Agricultural College: The Evolution of a Land-grant Philosophy, 1855-1925 by Keith R. Widder

Michigan Shadow Towns: A Study of Vanishing and Vibrant Villages by Gene Scott

Mighty Fitz: The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Michael Schumacher

Singing in a Strange Land: C.L. Franklin, the Black Church, and the Transformation of America by Nick Salvatore

Soapy: A Biography of G. Mennen Williams by Thomas J. Noer

Under Michigan: The Story of Michigan's Rocks and Fossils by Charles Ferguson Barker

Vintage Views of the Charlevoix-Petoskey Region by M. Christine Byron and Thomas R. Wilson

Is Chocolate Good for You?

The health benefits of chocolate seem to be coming up a lot lately, probably due to the new product from Dove called CocoaVia, which is marketed as a heart healthy delight. I tried digging up the most professional sources of info on this subject, but as we all know, health professionals can disagree and studies can contradict one another.

Dark Chocolate is Good For You
It's the flavanoids!

Chocolate can be good or bad for you
Jane Russell gives you good and bad news. High antioxidents in chocolate are good, but Stearic Acid might be bad for you. Chocolate induces acid reflux for some people, and the high fat content can give you indigestion. Not to mention all those caffeine problems

Fantasy Bit - Medieval Magic

"For a green-eyed reader filled with desire" a volume of blank parchment pages may reveal the magic of Northumbria. "Rich with mystery and atmosphere, this is a thought-provoking fable" about magic and greed. Avi does it again for a tale to share-aloud among families, The Book Without Words.

Kid Bits - Loss

For generations Comfort Snowberger's family has owned the funeral home in town. With care and cosmic understanding the family handles the loss of a family member at the same time that Comfort is losing peace with her best friend, Declaration. With southern charm and humor the rhythms of life flow with Each Little Bird That Sings, a lovely family read-together.

Best Documentaries of 2005

Quick, can you name last year's Oscar winner for Best Documentary Feature? (Answer under "read more," below). In the wake of all the media hype over popular feature films, documentaries usually get short shrift. Oh sure, you'll recognize March of the Penguins when this year's nominations are announced Tuesday morning, but that's largely because the sub-zero chick-rearing practices of the Emperor penguin featured prominently in America's perennial culture war last year. But many other excellent documentaries from 2005 (including Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man, left, one of the best-reviewed films of the year) won't be among the nominees either, whether due to a lack of interest on the part of an obscure group of Academy voters or equally obscure Academy rules....

Ball Don't Lie

March Madness is just around the corner, so now's a great time to check out some fiction about basketball. Ball Don't Lie, by Matt de la Pena is a great place to start. Between foster homes and living in the street, Sticky 17, has developed some amazing basketball skills; enough to get him noticed by big-time scouts. He hangs out at Lincoln Rec, a gym in L.A. which functions as a shelter and a place where serious ball players go. Sticky's compulsive about his stance, his routine, and his shots, but way beyond normal. He's obsessive as he tucks his shirt in six or more times, until he gets it right. Detailed game action pulses like a fast court break. Anh-thu, is Sticky's girlfriend and she too wants him to reach his dreams.

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