The Warren Commission Report is an awesome graphic novel!

I sat down to read The Warren Commission Report: A Graphic Investigation into the Kennedy Assassination, and finished it in one sitting. I loved it! I didn't know too much about the JFK assassination prior to reading this super-cool graphic novel, and it was so great to learn about it and its aftermath through Dan Mishkin's carefully chosen language and information, accompanied by the beautiful art of Ernie Colon and Ann Arbor resident Jerzy Drozd. This book details the events of the assassination itself, the findings of the Warren Commission, and explores the controversies and conspiracy theories that still surround the event. The book "speaks to theorists and skeptics alike, breaking down how decisions made in the days that followed the assassination not only shaped the way the commission reconstructed events, but also fostered the conspiracy theories that play a part in American politics to this day," reads the jacket, and I agree wholeheartedly. I appreciated that the book was not the least bit didactic, but simply well-researched and presented clearly and concisely.

If you're at all interested in learning more about the JFK assassination, I would highly recommend starting with this fantastic graphic novel.

Waiting (not so) patiently for Pioneer Girl: an annotated autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder?

Me too! I am crazy about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and learning more about her life after the books and her work as a writer. Pioneer Girl was Laura’s first attempt at writing her memoirs, and unlike her beloved Little House series, this book was aimed at adults. Pamela Smith Hill and the South Dakota Historical Society have done an incredible job of filling out Laura’s story - adding details about minor characters she encounters along the way, or explaining how events in this book were later fictionalized and expanded in later works. It’s a dense read, but Laura lovers will be amazed at all the new things there are to learn about her life and times.

While you’re waiting for Pioneer Girl, try:

- William Anderson - William Anderson is a big name in Laura Ingalls Wilder scholarship. Not only has he written multiple books on her, he has helped found and secure some of the home sites and museums, such as at Rocky Ridge, Laura and Almanzo’s home and farm in Missouri. Especially check out The Little House Guidebook and Pioneer Girl: the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder. These were written for a youth audience but any Laura fan will appreciate the historic photos.

- Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink - Caddie Woodlawn is a spunky eleven-year-old tomboy in 1860s Wisconsin, and these stories of her adventures in the woods are based on the stories of the author’s grandmother. This is the nearest readalike to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s own writing in my opinion, and due to episodes of friction between the Native Americans and the settlers, it’s probably shares the most with Little House on the Prairie.

- The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure - Blogger McClure travels from Laura location to Laura location - from wading in the banks of Plum Creek to sleeping in a covered wagon during a hailstorm on the South Dakota prairie - and encountering varieties of Little House fans from lookalike contest competitors to doomsday-prepping butter churners.

- Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen - This novel tells the story of Lee Lien, whose childhood is spent crisscrossing the Midwest as her family moves from managing one Asian buffet to another. Now an adult, Lee stumbles upon a family heirloom that may connect her family to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter. In tracing Wilder family history, she makes some discoveries about her own family as well.

- Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden - This biography of the author’s grandmother tells of two college friends from New York who take on an invitation to become teachers rural Northwest Colorado in 1916 - and enter a whole new world with different social conventions, students who have to ski to class on barrel staves and don’t know who the president is, and the challenge of being the only marriage prospects for miles around.

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Her Place in the World

Monday March 23, 2015: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

This event is intended for adults and teens grades 6 and up
This event will be recorded

Interest in Laura Ingalls Wilder is at a peak – especially with the recent publication of her autobiography Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography.

At this special AADL evening, explore the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose experiences traveling and homesteading with her pioneer family spawned her series of popular children's books. Author and Wilder scholar William Anderson and University of Michigan History professor Michelle McClellan lead us on a journey through Laura's life and tell the story of how the places she lived have now taken on a life of their own.

Wilder's legacy extends far beyond her Little House series; millions know her from the 1970s television show based on her books, and the locations she wrote about, including Kansas, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Missouri, have become tourist destinations for her devoted fans.

Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home, is coming to Ann Arbor

Hugely popular graphic novelist Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama, and many other graphic novels, will be coming to the Michigan Theater on January 22, 2015. Bechdel's work intertwines political and personal spheres. She uses stories of her father's life before gay rights and her mother's life prior to the women's rights movement to portray intimate images of oppression. In Fun Home, her most popular work, Bechdel shares her personal tales of coming-of-age and coming out in the 1950s and 1960s, under the shadow of her parents' unhappy marriage and nation-wide homophobia.

Bechdel's talk at the Michigan Theater will begin at 5:10pm. The event is free and open to the public. You can read more about Bechdel and the event itself here.

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms

Katherine Rundell, author of Rooftoppers, has done it again. Her newest children’s fiction novel, Cartwheeling In Thunderstorms is a fantastic treat of words and imagery.

Young Wilhelmina Silver, better known as Will, Cartwheel, or Wildcat, lives half-wild in Africa on a farm with her English born father and best animal friends. She spends time running the plains with her best friend Simon, and the monkeys and hyenas she’s grown to love and care for. Will is as feisty as can be and the boys are no match for her wit and spunk. Whip-smart, spontaneous, and ever a dreamer, Will’s happy and magical world gets ripped apart when the family farm is sold and she is sent to a boarding school in London, where she sticks out like dirty thumb.

It’s a charming story with an irresistable voice in Will Silver.

Josephine Baker Biography

If Jacqueline Woodson’s award-winning memoir Brown Girl Dreaming has you craving more stories-in-verse that share the African-American experience, check out this fantastic title:

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker written by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Christian Robinson is picture-book biography of dancer Josephine Baker. Beginning with her childhood in the segregated South, the book traces her life as a teenager in a traveling dance troupe, her star-making Paris debut, her work as a spy during World War II, and her adoption of twelve children of different nationalities, always highlighting her desire for racial acceptance. With its bright, bold illustrations and free-verse text that mixes quotations from Baker with energetic narration, this 100-page picture book is a perfect showcase for the dancer’s story.

Happy Birthday David Bowie!

Today marks the birthday of the man, the myth, the legend: David Bowie. What else can I say? Currently sitting unread on my coffee table at home is the 2014 bio on him: Bowie the Biography by Wendy Leigh. Have you read it? Do I need to read it? Please let me know.

As a singer, songwriter and actor Bowie has created many a masterpiece. Everything from movies, to music, to books. Ziggy Stardust! Aladdin Sane! The Labyrinth! With many personas spanning across decades Bowie has not ceased to amaze and entertain.

My random Bowie recommendation is not Bowie really, but covers. Check out The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions, featuring Bowie reworked into mellow accoustic versions and sung in Portuguese by Seu Jorge.

Happy birthday, dear sir, and thank you!

Good Dream, Bad Dream

New to the shelves are several picture books relating to common childhood fears, specifically fear of the dark and of the unknown. In Good Dream, Bad Dream (Sueño Bueno, Sueño Malo) by Juan Calle and Serena Valentino, little Julio is afraid of the monsters under his bed. Julio's father reminds him that "for every bad dream, you can have a good dream to help defeat your fears", and Julio explores the different heroes who could rescue him from a variety of monsters. This exciting story features monsters and heroes from many different cultures presented in action-packed comic-style illustrations. Additionally, this bilingual book is written in both English and Spanish, making it accessible for speakers of either language.

Also new is The Problem with Not Being Scared of Monsters by Dan Richards. In this tale, the main character finds that he is not afraid of monsters at all! In fact, his monster friends may be getting just a little too comfortable. This funny book uses wacky illustrations and a non-traditional plot line to tackle common childhood fears. For additional stories on this subject, consider Light's Out by Arthur Geisert or Floop in the Dark by Carole Tremblay.

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

“We form. We shine. We burn. Kapow.”

Printz Honor author A.S. King has done it again. Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future is superbly written and features a unique premise.

Glory is seventeen. Her mother commited suicide when Glory was just four years old. Her father is depressed and works from home on the couch. Her boy-obsessed best friend Ellie lives across the street in a hippie commune. She is about to graduate high school and our story begins at the end of her childhood.

One night something happens that allows Glory and Ellie to see a person's infinite past and future simply by looking at them. In this future there is a second civil war, women’s rights disappear, there’s a new tyrannical leader, a new army, and young girls vanish daily. Glory takes meticulous notes on what she sees hoping it will make a difference.

Glory is a fantasticlly written teen character. She is the odd-girl-out, a loner with no need for friends. She has her camera and the newly unlocked darkroom of her dead mother. And with the discovery of her mother’s old notebooks Glory learns mountains about herself and her family and how it all came to be, and it allows her to see a better future for herself.

Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall Comes to TV

Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy has been a historical fiction powerhouse - with both entries, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies becoming bestsellers and Booker Prize winners. The final book in the trilogy is underway, with no official release date at this time, although Mantel has shared details readers can expect to encounter in The Mirror and the Light.

Now Mantel’s epic is coming to TV. After assisting with the stage adaptation of her work by the Royal Shakespeare Company, Mantel signed off on a BBC adaptation, with the caveat that the show avoid historical errors and any ”nonsense” added for drama.

The six-part series will air on BBC2 in Britain later this year, with an PBS Masterpiece American release to follow. Fans of the Showtime series Homeland will be interested to see Damian Lewis (Nicholas Brody) in the meaty role of Henry VIII as part of the star-studded cast. An official trailer was just released, so fans can enjoy a quick peek to tide them over.

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