Animals in Rhyme: The Friends of Mother Goose

Now through January 14, 2016 -- Downtown Library: Lower Level Display Cases

This exhibit celebrates Mother Goose and the rhymes that bring humor and delight to early reading experiences. From Little Bo-Peep's wandering sheep to Mother Hubbard's demanding dog, visitors will find familiar (and some unfamiliar) animal friends in print and on parade. Come and explore over 100 years of illustrated rhymes from the University of Michigan Special Collections Library's Children's Literature Collection and the William A. Gosling Pop-up and Movable Book Collection.

Organized by animal species, each section of the exhibit presents both lesser-known rhymes and old favorites as interpreted by some of the most important children’s book illustrators of the past hundred years. Mervyn Peake’s “Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross,” Jerry Pinkney’s “Three Little Kittens,” and Robert Sabuda’s pop-up “Itsy Bitsy Spider” are only a few of the visual delights on display.

This year’s exhibit is curated by Juli McLoone, Outreach Librarian & Curator of the Special Collections Library. Many thanks to Marieka Kaye of the Preservation & Conservation Department and Anne Elias and Karmen Beecroft of the Special Collections Library for their help in designing, preparing, and installing this exhibit, and to Beverly Black, Steve Daut, Laura Lee Hayes, and Jennifer Otto of the Ann Arbor Storytellers Guild for sharing their storytelling talent and expertise

New Picture Books to Celebrate Friendship

Two new adorable picture books about friendship have showed up in Youth, and I can’t stop talking about them! Buddy and Earl, written by Maureen Fergus and illustrated by Carey Sookocheff, is a slight and simple story about the friendship between a dog and a hedgehog. When Earl the hedgehog shows up in Buddy’s life, Buddy doesn’t know what to make of him. Earl tells Buddy that he is a race car, a hairbrush and a giraffe, among other things. Buddy is wonderfully naive and sweet, and Earl is clever and loyal. Fergus’ text is witty and unexpected, and Sookocheff’s illustrations capture their unusual friendship beautifully.

Written by Lisa Mantchev and lavishly illustrated by Taeeun Yoo, Strictly No Elephants is about a little boy who is devastated to find that his tiny elephant is not allowed at the local Pet Club. Rather than wallowing, he teams up with a girl and her pet skunk to start a new club that welcomes everyone. The variety of animals that come to this new club is astonishing, and each one is drawn with beautiful care. Throughout the book, readers are reminded of the kind things that friends do. Never didactic, this book is absolutely adorable and highly recommended!

Nothin' like a good map book!

Yes! I love maps and geography, and a brand new United States map book has just arrived here at the library! Titled simply The Fifty States, this oversize book gives each state a double-page spread jam-packed with unique details about that state and a giant map of the state with interesting and memorable places marked. I love how author Gabrielle Balkan didn’t pick well-known facts or places to highlight, but instead chose more “off the beaten path” aspects of our country to point out. The key facts for each state—capital, statehood date, flower, bird, tree and motto aren’t left out, though: they’re nicely arranged in a colorful box on each page. Each spread also has a column of “memorable moments” from the state, and images of famous people from the state are scattered across the pages. I loved some of the places of note that Balkan chose for Michigan: along with the Mackinac Bridge and Sleeping Bear Dunes, the submarine museum in Muskegon, the Charlevoix mushroom houses, the frozen pier in St. Joseph and Tahquamenon (“Root Beer”) Falls are also on display.

This is a quirkily illustrated, yet beautiful book and offers an amazing amount of information; all ages will learn something by perusing it! What a great holiday gift for any child interested in maps and the U.S.A.!

Summerlong: a book for any season

I had an unusual experience when I first picked up the new novel Summerlong, by Dean Bakopoulos. When I picked it up and read the inscription, it was dedicated to someone I knew years ago when I attended a tiny college in the middle of Iowa. What! I quickly flipped to the back jacket to read about the author and found out that he is the writer-in-residence at Grinnell College—the little school I went to! The book itself is actually set in Grinnell, during one of Iowa’s classic sweltering summers, and I enjoyed reading about all the places that I remembered from my time there. Even those who haven’t been to Grinnell—which, realistically, is almost everyone else—will enjoy this unique setting for the story. The tensions between the characters and the buildup to climactic scenes are enhanced by the essentially expressionless setting of the story. The heat, the flatness and the lack of activity in Grinnell seem to make the tumult in the characters’ lives all the more dramatic.

The story focuses on four different residents of the town whose lives are intertwined in ways both known and unknown by the quartet. Claire and Don Lowry are a married couple whose marriage and financial status are both on the rocks. The enigmatic “ABC” has moved back to Grinnell to mourn the loss of the love of her life, and finds herself one night stoned in a hammock with the sleeping Don Lowry curled next to her, having just met him a few hours before. Enter, Charlie, who has also recently returned to Grinnell, on the pretense of cleaning out his family home and caring for his ailing father, but really to escape the “artist’s” life he had tried and failed to create for himself in Seattle. On the same night that Don is asleep in the hammock, Claire finds herself skinny-dipping in Charlie’s father’s pool. As the summer progresses, these four characters’ fates become increasingly intertwined, with some delicious twists along the way. Despite the title, Summerlong is a book for any season… and a particularly good read to remind yourself of the heat of summer as the cold winter months creep in.

DIY Home Décor

Calling all crafters! A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home: Painting, Crafting, and Decorating a Cheerful, More Inspiring Space, the book by popular décor bloggers, Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman, is calling your name. Yes, yours! The book features DIY decorating projects for your home that are simple, playful, and modern. The range of difficulty is nicely varied, and sure to please both the beginning maker and the established crafter extraordinaire. The book offers ‘9 Way’ projects, including ‘Throw Pillows 9 Ways’ and ‘Coffee Mugs 9 Ways,’ in which one project is explored with 9 separate results. It’s great for browsing – and sure to inspire!

Please, Open This Book!

Do it. Open it.

You might remember the funny picture book Warning: Do Not Open This Book! by Adam Lehrhaupt. Well, those animals are back in his follow-up Please, Open This Book! And they’re not too happy. They’ve been trapped in a book! It’s dark in there, and if a book is closed all of the monkey’s bananas get smushed! If you happen to open this book and then close it the animals will be trapped all over again! What will you do? I highly recommend you open the book and find out.

$2.00 a day

In $2.00 a day: living on almost nothing in America, Kathryn J. Edin and University of Michigan professor H. Luke Shaefer, illuminate a population of America that endeavors to survive, out of necessity, on little to no cash, $2.00 per day per person, or less, “what many of us spend on a cup of coffee each day.” Alex Kotlowitz, There are no children here : the story of two boys growing up in the other America.
This alarming narrative weaves together personal stories and recent economic history to show how these Americans got to this point, and who, exactly is suffering. Edin and Shaefer narrow their focus on four areas of America; one that represents the "typical" American city, one a rural locale that has been deeply poor for more than half a century, the third, a place where deep poverty is a newer phenomenon, and finally, a place that had been very poor in recent decades but is experiencing economic recovery. Their book takes us to Chicago, Cleveland, Johnson City, Tennessee in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and several small, rural hamlets in the Mississippi Delta, to get at the heart of what daily life is like for individuals struggling with deep poverty, and the means they go through to survive. The first hand accounts of children going without food for weeks at a time and parents who sell whatever they can (rides in their cars, plasma, social security numbers) to alleviate this hunger are unforgettable. This is an eye opening and important read.

“Affluent Americans often cherish the belief that poverty in America is far more comfortable than poverty in the rest of the world. Edin and Shaefer’s devastating account...blows that myth out of the water.” Barbara Ehrenreich author of Nickel and dimed : on (not) getting by in America

Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads Book Discussion: "The Book of Unknown Americans: A Novel"

Monday January 11, 2016: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Pittsfield Branch: Program Room

This event is intended for grade 9 - adult

AADL staff lead a discussion of The Book of Unknown Americans: A Novel by Cristina Henriquez, the book selected for Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads 2016.

This is a stunning novel of hopes and dreams, guilt and love—a book that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be American. It centers on the story of a fifteen-year-old girl, Maribel, whose family must leave their life in Mexico so she can receive medical care. She falls in love with the neighbor's son, and their love has the potential to devastate everyone involved. The story includes viewpoints from both families, and immigrants from all over Latin America.

The book received much critical acclaim and was named a New York Times and Washington Post Notable Book, and was an NPR Great Read. It was also named one of the Best Books of the Year by Mother Jones,, School Library Journal, and BookPage.

Copies of the book are available at the Ann Arbor District Library, the Ypsilanti District Library, and area bookstores. For more information on Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads, visit the Reads website at

Date with a Book

Saturday February 13, 2016: 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm -- Traverwood Branch: Program Room

This event is intended for grade 6 - adult

We'll set up a room similar to what you might expect at those "speed dating" events that are all the rage these days, but instead of people, you'll be dating books!

We'll have tables set up with popular books from each genre, and you'll have 4 minutes to "date" them before moving on to the next table. You never know - maybe that historical fiction novel you never would have picked up yourself will pique your interest, or perhaps a romance novel will shatter your preconceived notions about them.

Enjoy some light refreshments and meet the book of your dreams!

The final installment in Jane Smiley's Last Hundred Years trilogy is here!

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley has gifted readers with numerous stories of the American heartland over the years. Her most recent endeavor has been the Last Hundred Years trilogy: three volumes following the same family over the course of a century. Beginning with Some Luck and continuing with Early Warning, the series concludes with the recently published Golden Age.

The deftness with which Smiley has managed to tell the stories of the family members is truly amazing. Some Luck begins in 1920 and each chapter represents one year, continuing through 1952. Early Warning picks up in 1953 and continues through the late 1980s, while Golden Age will carry us through 2019. The cast of characters is ever-expanding, but Smiley manages to keep the story coherent and detailed through all of the novels. One would think that it would be difficult to develop characters when the story is moving so quickly and the cast is so large, but Smiley shares the exact right amount of emotions and events so that readers feel truly immersed in the story and in the lives of the family members. The trilogy is more than just the story of a family, however. It's really a portrait of America over the course of the past century: the successes, the failures, the memorable events, the changing landscape, the cultural revolution, the technological invasion. Smiley uses her characters to comment on historical events and to offer unique perspectives and representations.

I'm still on the waitlist for Golden Age, but can't wait to see how the series concludes, and to read Smiley's interpretation of the past few decades, which contain events that I will personally remember. If you haven't read any of this trilogy yet, get started with Some Luck--and get on the hold list for Golden Age!

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