826Michigan books for you

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The library owns a few books put out by 826Michigan (the fabulous local non-profit that offers tutoring and workshops, and supports writing endeavors for kids age 6-18.) They have many books that are samples and collections of students’ work, highlighting the best and brightest of writing talent that will knock your socks off. True Stories and Tall Tales culminates a year’s worth of work at Ypsilanti’s Childs Elementary School and features histories, fantasies, and other such silliness written by the students, while lead by 826Michigan volunteers.

Another book written by 826Michigan students, and other 826 chapters across the country, is Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country: Kids' Letters to President Obama. Which is essentially just that: a collection of letters written by kids and addressed to President Obama. Some are funny, some are heartfelt, all are worth reading.

If you’re looking for more works put out by 826, or some McSweeney’s titles, or want to hear more about what they do there, check out the shelves at the Liberty Street Robot Repair and Supply Shop at 115 E. Liberty.

Oh, the moors, the dark, dark moors!

I remember that summer I took Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte everywhere I went. I embraced the tragedy of unrequited love and walked the moors with the brooding Heathcliffe. Bronte was born in Thornton, England on July 30, 1818. She and her sisters, Charlotte and Anne and their brother Branwell schooled themselves at home with the large collection of classics in their father's library. They made up highly developed fantasy kingdoms and wrote reams of notes on the characters and histories they created. Emily was the quietest of the bunch. She died of consumption at the age of thirty, a death she may have described if she had been able to write another grand gothic novel.

Icelander by Dustin Long

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The main character in Icelander is known only as Our Heroine. Set in an alternate universe, this postmodern tale starts out with Shirley MacGuffin found murdered the day before the town’s annual celebration of Our Heroine’s mother, the famous sleuth, Emily Bean. Our Heroine has no interest in following in her mother’s footsteps and running around town solving cases, but she gets wrapped up in “the facts” and is thrown into a wild predicament which takes her places she never imagined.

Told from multiple points of view, Icelander is an intense, confusing, absurd, wacky, and magical adventure, akin to The crying of Lot 49, with Nabokovian influences, only laced with Norse mythology. The book is a treat, if you’re up for falling into a rabbit hole. A friend gave me this McSweeney’s book as a gift, and it ended up being quite a delightful surprise. You’ll find yourself either loving or hating this book.

If you still have questions after reading the book, I recommend the following Q&A with the author, and also this author interview.

G.B.S.- the quintessential playwright

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Today, July 26 is the birthday of Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw who was born in Dublin in 1856. He wrote many plays including Pygmalion on which the musical, My Fair Lady is based, Saint Joan and Arms and the man. He's the only person to win both a Nobel Prize in literature (in 1925) and an Oscar for the film, Pygmalion.

Shaw was known for his biting wit and his concerns for social justice. He thought of himself as the greatest English dramatist since Shakespeare. He was also a literary and music critic and a prolific letter writer.

To see some incredible productions of Shaw's plays as well as others, check out the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the Lake.

Let's Hear it for the Boys

On July 21st, 1959 the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Grove Press, the publisher of now-classic works such as D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch and my personal favorite, Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer. At that time in history, books considered obscene due to graphic sexual content or language were often forbidden from being published in the United States and other parts of the world. It took years of struggles and trials for books such as those above to be granted protection under the constitutional right of freedom of speech.

Look for a book soon to be added to our collection, 1959:The Year Everything Changed by author Fred Kaplan (also columnist for Slate), that discusses the trial of Lady Chatterley's Lover in more detail. And today - celebrate Lawrence, Burroughs and Miller!

The Joy of Keeping Chickens

Ebys Chickens. Photo by ktpup
Photo of my chickens by friend ktpupp used under CC - BY/NC/SA

We've been constantly adding resources to our collection for those thinking (or already) raising chickens. One of the recent additions is the 2009 released The joy of keeping chickens : the ultimate guide to raising poultry for fun or profit.

As the title implies, this book attempts to be the ultimate guide and touches on about every topic you'll likely want to know, even keeping meat birds. As can be expected with a book that does a whirlwind tour if you are interested in in-depth coverage of a specific topic you'll probably want to look elsewhere. While the book covers meat bird, butchering, starting a business, incubating, showing birds and the like, it is generalized and more "things we wish we had known" than an in-depth guide. However, enough is covered to give you a starting point to begin your research and familiarize yourself with the many options out there and what might be involved. Definitely worth the read if you are still in the beginning stages of research on what route you want to take.

All that being said if you are focusing on egg layers then this book is definitely one to check out. The book also sports all color photographs which may inspire you on what colorful breed you want and later chapters include recipes to put your egg bounty to work.

A nice addition to this book versus some others is the use of personal stories to begin each chapter, giving background on why the author chose to raise her own. You can check out one of these stories with an excerpt of chapter 1 on the book's website.

Bring on the pickled eggs!

What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn

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The Costa Award winning What Was Lost begins in 1984 and tells the story of a young girl named Kate. She has read up on how to be a detective (Kate would have enjoyed this book) and spends her days in a local mall “looking for suspects” and recording notes in her precious detective’s notebook, while sitting alongside her assistant, who is a stuffed monkey. At the mall she befriends 21yr old Aidan, and they compare notes and discuss things like chocolate and movies. When Kate goes missing Aidan becomes a prime suspect. Flash forward to the mall in 2004, where we meet record shop manager Lisa and a security guard named Kurt. As we begin to understand the connections between all the characters, the past and present are intertwined and it all comes into focus by the end.

"One giant leap for mankind..."

On July 20, 1969, 40 years ago today, man first set foot on the moon. Guided by Apollo 11's orbiting command astronaut Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin landed the lunar model, Eagle, at 4:17 p.m., EDT on the surface of the moon. They walked on the moon's surface for 2 1/2 hours, bringing home photos and moon rocks and gaining the adoration of the American public.

The Library has some wonderful books and dvds on the landing. If you're old enough to remember, they may evoke an "I was there" (just watching, of course) memory. Or young people may be inspired to take another giant leap to the great beyond.

New dvd releases from Amazon

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Following are descriptions a few new dvds considered "hot new releases" on Amazon. Although there are many holds, take advantage of Zoom Lends copies that are available for only $1 a week:

Near Dark. Although not new, it has been re-issued in the wake of the Twilight frenzy. Caleb, a naive country boy, falls for Mae who is a member of a band of bloodthirsty vampires.

Gran Torino Clint Eastwood plays an embittered Korean war vet who tries to reform a Hmong teenager who tries to steal his beloved car.

Taken Liam Neeson plays the hero, former spy, Bryan Mills, who goes on a dangerous search for his daughter who has been kidnapped in Paris.

Inkheart. Based on the children's adventure novel by Cornelia Funke, it's the story of book lover, Mo Folchart, who has the ability to bring the characters in books to life leading to some unintended consequences. Read Funke's other books for some great summer adventures.

He's Just Not That Into You Romantic entanglements abound among an appealing cast including Jennifer Anniston, Drew Barrymore and Ben Affleck.

Truck Stuck author Sallie Wolf comes to Ann Arbor!

Calling all preschoolers who love those big noisy vehicles. Come to the Pittsfield Branch on Thursday, July 23rd at 2:00 to meet Sallie Wolf, author of the picture book Truck Stuck. See what happens when a big red truck causes a traffic jam by getting stuck under a bridge. How can it be unstuck?

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