Books

Race, culture explored in these library books

Among the many overwhelming changes that swept America in the 1920s, one of the most fruitful and enduring to our culture is the emergence and acceptance of the African American artist, primarily in music and literature.

Focused in a downtown neighborhood of Manhattan, the post-war social climate that cultivated novelty and difference spawned a “Harlem Renaissance” which launched the careers of young writers like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston and boosted the popularity of such Jazz and Blues greats as Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith. Enthusiasm and support often came from white patrons, who at best financed and encouraged African American arts, but who raised troubling questions about the essentialism of race and its representation.

“Harlem Speaks,” edited by Cary Wintz, provides a rich compilation of the art and history of the period for those who want to read up on the actual phenomenon that was the Harlem Renaissance, but two new books come at the topic from the challenging angle of its influence upon the larger (white) culture. “The Tastemaker” by Edward White focuses primarily on cultural maven Carl Van Vechten’s relationships with black artists of the day, while “Miss Anne in Harlem” by Carla Kaplan revives the history of the largely forgotten contributions and controversies involving the white women friends and philanthropists of the movement.


Quirky ‘Ellen’ worth finding

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“Invisible Ellen” by Shari Shattuck, c.2014, Putnam $26.95, 295 pages

Peek-a-boo.

Narrators lead readers through these books

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When we first begin reading, we trust the narrator. Why shouldn’t we? We link the narrator with the loved one reading to us—a parent, a grandparent, a teacher, or an older sibling. Sometimes, though, we’re looking for something different. Surprising. Fresh. Reworking the narrative voice can kick a story from “good” to “WHOA!”

One of my favorite ways of narrative play is the unreliable narrator. You may or may not realize it at first, but the person telling the story is not to be trusted. “We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart (easily one of my top 10 books of 2014) features a young woman exploring her past, but she doesn’t remember the disaster of one night. Or does she?

Dog lovers will love inspiring ‘Ricochet’

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“Ricochet: Riding a Wave of Hope with the Dog Who Inspires Millions” by Judy Fridono with Kay Pfaltz, c.2014, HCI, $18.95, 271 pages

Meet ‘The Wives of Los Alamos’

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“The Wives of Los Alamos: A Novel” by Tarashea Nesbit is written in the unusual first person plural voice. The voice is that of the collective spouses of the scientists drafted to invent the atomic bomb, the weapon that would ultimately end the Second World War.

 Los Alamos was barely a settlement when the families began arriving on the desolate mesa north of Santa Fe, N.M., in 1943. The scientists’ wives made the best of extreme physical hardship, enduring inadequate housing, lack of sufficient water, and poor access to most creature comforts.  Throughout the book, though, the overriding hardship was the secrecy — no one knew what was happening in The Lab. 

Don’t let go of ‘When I First Held You’

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“When I First Held You” by various authors, edited by Brian Gresko, c.2014, Berkley $15, 277 pages

You’ve done some scary things in your life.

Kids meet influencial people in these books

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As a girl, Jane Goodall read the Tarzan of the Apes books. When Albert Einstein was very young, he wandered the streets of Munich alone, thinking. As a boy, Leonardo Fibonacci of Pisa found patterns in foods in his family’s kitchen. You and your child can discover the beginnings of accomplished people at your Kenosha Public Library.

In the Caldecott honor book “Me, Jane”; we get a look into the childhood of Dr. Jane Goodall, primatologist, environmentalist and United Nations Messenger of Peace. Author and illustrator Patrick McDonnell uses photographs of Goodall as well as her own drawings. He also uses vintage ornamental engravings of nature to complement his words. His words tell the story of a little girl who loves nature and dreams of a life living with and helping animals in Africa. McDonnell’s own colorful illustrations show young Jane and her toy chimpanzee Jubilee exploring her world and the world of her dreams. At the back of the book is a page about Goodall’s work and a message from her. This picture book biography is ideal to share with young animal lovers.

Promise you will read ‘The Promise’ this summer

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“The Promise” by Ann Weisgarber, c. 2013, 2014, Skyhorse Publishing, $24.95, 310 pages

Get busy with these outdoor do-it-yourself books

Believe it or not, winter might actually be over, and it’s time to get out in the yard. Even if you have a very small space, you can spiff it up. Growing vegetables and flowers, building something interesting for your yard or garden or creating art to beautify your outdoor space are all activities the library can help you get started.

“Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans That Will Change the Way You Grow Your Garden” by Niki Jabbour is loaded with fun food garden plans including ones that supply your favorite cocktail ingredients, one that you plant on a balcony and one that grows 24 kinds of chili peppers. “Straw Bale Gardens: The Breakthrough Method for Growing Vegetables Anywhere, Earlier and With No Weeding” by Joel Karsten shows how to raise veggies using a bale of straw as a container. “Vertical Vegetables & Fruit: Creative Gardening Techniques for Growing Up in Small Spaces” by Rhonda Massingham Hart is one of many books at the library that teach small-space gardening. Flower gardeners might want to try “The Cutting Garden: Growing & Arranging Garden Flowers” by Sarah Raven.

There’s no shortage of books about the origins of World War I

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. The “war to end all wars” was a turning point in world history and would have far reaching effects into the 20th century; including what some believe would act as a prelude to the greater war that followed.

There has been much written about this war and in this anniversary year that trend will not be changing any time soon.

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