Home: a work of art for children and adults

The concept of “home” has meant a lot of different things to people over the ages and is still unique for each one of us today. Artist Carson Ellis makes her solo debut with a beautiful picture book, titled simply Home, that explores the meaning and concept of home. A snail shell, a covered wagon, an igloo, a castle surrounded by a moat… all are or have been home to something or someone at a given point in time. Ellis even weaves in fantastical homes: fairy houses, boots, and more are included in this wonderful book. In some of the mythical houses, Ellis does not include a description of who lives there, but instead asks readers to imagine what sort of creature they think would be suited to the structure. The clever combination of traditional, non-traditional, and fanciful homes will inspire children (and adults!) to think of “home” in a new way.

You may recognize Ellis’ work: she is the illustrator of the Wildwood series and the artist for the band The Decemberists. You can visit her website to see more of her awesome talent!

Bookmarks

If you are the kind of book-lover whose reading pleasure includes reading about books, and if you are always looking for your next read but want a fresh source for ideas, then look at our magazine Bookmarks, found in the Periodicals Department of the Downtown library. Published six times a year, it includes a panoply of features for the bibliophile which are informative and fun. Every issue highlights the profile of a real-life book group, readers’ personal “Have you read…?” lists, biography/interviews with outstanding authors, bibliographies of reading around a specific theme (such as native cultures, the immigrant experience or nature and the environment), award winners and ‘best books of the year’ lists. The book selections for each issue are reviewed with their own carefully honed evaluations, as well as excerpts of reviews from many other sources. The last page is always a feature called “The Year in Books” where all the best-sellers, award winners and notable books from a past year are remembered. (It was 1983 when The Color Purple won the Pulitzer and the National Book Award!) Lots of ideas here to keep you in books, with plenty of lists to tantalize for years to come, Bookmarks is for "everyone who hasn't read everything".

Draw Paint Print like the Great Artists

With Draw Paint Print like the Great Artists, you can learn different art styles alongside your favorite artists throughout history! In this beautiful and fascinating book, the reader is introduced to more than 30 different famous artists and their works. From there, the book introduces each artist's favorite art techniques, and provides creative projects designed by the author in order to hone your newfound art skills. All of the activities include easy instructions and the activities themselves are both inspiring and a lot of fun!

With aesthetically pleasing content and formatting, Draw Paint Print like the Great Artists encourages artists of all ages and skill sets while leaving enough room for creativity and growth. For more information on these famous artists, look for An Eye for Art: Focusing on Great Artists and Their Work and Look Closer: Art Masterpieces Through the Ages.

Sports talk-show host pens rich fiction

If you’re familiar with Mike Greenberg then you probably know him as the less athletic half of ESPN’s top-rated radio program Mike & Mike. What you may not know is that Greeny has forayed into the world of fiction, last month releasing his second novel.

My Father’s Wives follows Jonathan Sweetwater, an accomplished Wall Street banker, through two tumultuous weeks of disappointment and discovery. When Jon has reason to believe that his wife is having an affair, he hastily sets out to learn why his seemingly perfect life is falling apart. Central to this search is Jon’s father, the late US Senator Percival Sweetwater III whom Jon has not seen since his own ninth birthday party.

Since the Senator is not available for comment, Jon treks the globe in search of his father’s six wives, hoping that they will reveal some long-hidden truth about his father and himself.

Ultimately Greenberg’s book is about the nature of family and relationships. The well-developed characters feel real, and the use of sports as metaphor is well-done. The book is fast-paced and Jon’s globe-trekking search for answers adds a sense of mystery and suspense to the novel. And at just over two hundred pages placing it on hold is an easy commitment to make. Unless, that is, you’re afraid of that sort of thing.

You can check out Greenbergs other books here and a New York Times review of My Father's Wives here.

Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse

In Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse, a very curious mouse wakes up one day, only to discover that all of the other mice have disappeared. The reason? The invention of the mechanical mouse trap! Our little mouse friend knows he must reach his friends and family in America, but with hungry cats guarding the ships at the harbor and owls following him each night, the little mouse knows his journey will not be easy. Late one night, the little mouse spies bats flying in the distance, and (in a stroke of pure mousy genius) realizes that he must fly to America. The mouse will build his own little wings for the long journey overseas. Although difficult at first, our furry protagonist constructs his very own pair of wings, and sets off across the Atlantic.

This story hinges on it's beautiful and breathtaking illustrations, and readers will connect easily to the mouse at the center of this inspiring story. The mechanical aspects of this book greatly reminded me of the illustrations and overall feel of The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Other great mouse stories with similar themes include Mousenet, Young Fredle, and Ratatouille.

The World of PostSecret

The wildly popular community mail art project PostSecret, in which individuals decorate and mail a postcard with a secret on it to creator Frank Warren, was first established in 2005. Since then, the secrets that Frank has received have been displayed around the world in museums and galleries, and are posted on the PostSecret website, as well as published in PostSecret books. It had been a few years since a PostSecret book was published, but now fans can be excited about The World of PostSecret, the sixth book displaying some of the thousands of postcards that Frank receives. The book also features images and secrets from the short-lived PostSecret app. The range of emotions that one experiences while reading a PostSecret book is vast. The secrets will make you cringe, laugh, cry, and shake your head in disbelief and appreciation. I especially enjoyed The World of PostSecret because it contains follow-up stories to some of the secrets that readers might be most curious about.

Other PostSecret books in the AADL collection include The Secret Lives of Men and Woman, My Secret, Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives, and A Lifetime of Secrets.

Telephone, by Mac Barnett

You know the hilarious game where you sit in a circle and whisper something to the person next to you, then they whisper it to the person next to them, and so on? And once the message gets passed to the the original person it is quite unlike the original message? It’s called telephone. You probably played it at a slumber party as a kid. The wonderful new picture book, Telephone, by superstar author Mac Barnett features something similar.

Several birds are sitting on a very long telephone wire. Momma bird says, “Tell Peter: Fly home for dinner.” The message gets passed from bird to bird until it finally reaches Peter at the other end of the wire. You wouldn’t believe the silly message the birds keep incorrectly passing along the wire.

With beautiful illustrations by Jen Corace, this picture book is a winner and will put a smile on your face.

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.

New Years' Intention

Truth be told, I’m not big on New Years Resolutions. The holiday hype and excitement tend to make me feel exhausted and inadequate before February finishes. Instead, I prefer to set an intention for the year, as I have found that this is a much more successful and forgiving way to make long term and consistent improvements. Like many, my intention for this next year is to eat better. More specifically, my goal is to learn how to nourish myself rather than just feed myself, and examine how certain foods add or detract from my well being. Ayurveda is the foundation of this type of thought.

Ayurveda is the ancient yogic study of the effect of food on your physical constitution, while factoring in one’s emotional nature and individual spiritual outlook. Sanskrit texts dating back 5,000 years teach of the three body types, or “doshas,” and how to best balance your whole being. One good place to start is with Suhas Kshirsagar’s “Hot Belly Diet”. Here you’ll learn the basics on how to determine your dosha, and create the optimum diet to improve overall health, balance hormone levels, and kick start your digestive ‘fire.’ Whether you suffer from chronic disease or acute ailments, deciphering your own ‘diet code’ is crucial to creating a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

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