The Kingdom of Rarities

In another life, I would love to become a wildlife biologist; it combines things I loves such as working with animals, walking, observing deeply, and travel. This book does all of the above plus makes you more curious about the flora and fauna around us. Why are robins common and not Kirtland’s warblers? Why are deer abundant and not jaguars? Eric Dinerstein, the author, started his scientific career studying tigers and later rhinoceroses. He is now Chief Scientist at the World Wildlife Fund. In The Kingdom of Rarities, he travels to many continents to explore the rare creatures and plants living there.

One of the places he and his scientific team visit is Irian Jaya, a remote island on the Indonesian archipelago. It combines two aspects of places that often give homes to rare creatures: remoteness, and being situated on an island. Another factor that makes Irian Jaya home to rarities is its geology—its steep mountains and gorges serve as barriers to invasive species which have become common on many other islands. The description of Dinerstein’s flight to this research spot is compelling; it was incredibly risky just to land a plane there. But well worth it because the scientists found many rare creatures quite close to them and not shy at all with humans. The scientists were amazed by how many species divided their habitats vertically.

Beasts of Burden

Beasts of BurdenMaking yourself read outside your comfort zone can end up with some total misses and some excellent surprises. In all likelihood I would have missed Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites, a graphic novel about a talking pack of animals that solve supernatural mysteries in their seemingly sweet suburban neighborhood of Burden Hill. That description wouldn't peak my interest, but also doesn't do the graphic novel justice either.
The storytelling is episodic, in that there are chapters that are a complete story into itself which makes for a fast read. There is a pack of animal friends, all dogs and one orphan cat who start uncovering supernatural cases in their neighborhood. They eventually become apprentices in the Wise Dog Society to further their training in fighting these evil forces. The supernatural stories cover a wide range from an evil coven of cats, a rain of mutant frogs, werewolves, magical earthen golems, ghosts, and more.

Raccoon Nation

Raccoons are smart. If you've ever had to deal with them then you'll probably agree that they are some of the smartest creatures on Earth. In 2011, PBS did a one-hour documentary on raccoons and their nocturnal behavior. The raccoons were tagged with GPS collars and studied for three months. The information gleaned from the researchers begged the question, "Are humans making raccoons smarter?" It seem as though every attempt to keep them out of our trash bins present them with a new and interesting puzzle to solve which in turn creates smarter raccoons that survive and pass on their genes. It sounds like a ridiculous theory but take look at the documentary before you make any judgments. The library owns one copy at the main branch.

Fifty Animals that Changed the Course of History

If you're an animal lover (and who isn't?), you'll love this book. Fifty Animals is full of fascinating facts and anecdotes that describe our symbiotic and other relationships with interesting creatures through time.

Do you admire your friend's bright red shirt? If so, tell her that for centuries the best and most durable red dye came from Mexico and was shipped as far away as Asia. This red dye came from thousands of insects named chochineal. It takes about 70,000 insects to make just a pound of it. Since the advent of chemical dyes, it's seldom used in textiles any longer, but it now employed as a safe colorant for food.

The lowly donkey otherwise known as ass, has a reputation for being incredibly dumb, when in fact, they are smart, very adaptable animals that have carried our heavy loads for centuries throughout the world.

The wise and majestic elephant--my favorite mammal--we unfortunately coerced into war. In fact, the sight of just one of these intelligent beasts carrying archers and slingers reportedly so terrified the defenders of early Britain that the poor Anglo-Saxons were routed by the Roman army.

Elephant and Piggie: In a Book and At the Library!

With a wry wit honed as an Emmy Award winning writer and animator for Sesame Street, author and illustrator Mo Willems broke into the world of Children's Literature in a big way in 2003 with a bus obsessed pigeon.

A Magpie's Dilemma

Sometimes the simplest of stories convey complex ideas most beautifully. More by I.C. Springman has just a few words on each page, but the illustrations vividly depict the hazards of collecting too much "stuff." The story features a magpie - a crow-like bird that folklore recognizes for its attraction to shiny objects -- and which commonly describes someone who collects odds and ends of little value.  (I do believe I am parent to a couple of magpies!)

To See Every Bird on Earth

To See Every Bird on EarthMicrohistories are a subgenre of non-fiction books which take a particular subject or single event and through intensive historical research try to contextualize the chosen subject within the broader picture.  Both Simon Winchester and Mark Kurlansky are well known microhistorians.  Kurlansky in particular is known for Salt: A World History, 1968: The Year That Rocked the World, and The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell.  As a history nerd, I find that a well written microhistory uncovers a previously unthought-of subject or event and breathes life into the history cannon as a whole.  Curious?  Check out titles like Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug, Just My Type: A Book About Fonts, or Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.  Several years ago I read and enjoyed a microhistory called Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World by Dan Koeppel.

Hachi: A Heart-Warming Tale Inspired by a True Story

Professor Parker Wilson and his dog, HachiFor those of you who love animal stories, this DVD from our collection is a must see! Hachi, starring Richard GereJoan Allen, and Sarah Roemer, chronicles the life of an extraordinary dog named Hachiko. No one really knows where Hachi came from, but the small Akita puppy shows up at a train station one evening as Professor Parker Wilson (played by Gere) comes home from work. Though the professor's efforts to find Hachi a new home prove in vain, his wife and daughter watch the bond between man and dog grow and agree that Hachi should stay. As he grows, Hachi becomes so attached to his master that he walks him to the train station each morning and awaits his return there each afternoon. 

One day, however, tragedy strikes and the professor does not return home on the train. Though the professor's family tries to explain to Hachi that the professor won't ever be coming home, Hachi continues to wait for his master's return at the station each day--for nine years! This truly inspiring story is family-friendly and shows the beauty of a dog's loyal and undying devotion for his master. If you are particularly tender-hearted, make sure to keep a box of tissues handy, as this movie may tug on your heartstrings!

This title is located in our Juvenile Collection on the first floor of the library. A trailer is available to watch at the Internet Movie Database website.


Nature: A Murder of Crows

You can always count on the PBS Nature series to be interesting and have beautiful videography. But I was especially captivated when I recently watched A Murder of Crows. It didn't sound that interesting- a documentary about crows, but when I read the description of crows as "apes with feathers" I was intrigued. I had no idea how intellligent these birds are.

Interrupting Chicken

Knock knock.

Who's there?
Interrupting Cow!
Interrupting Cow wh-

David Ezra Stein knows another version of one of my favorite knock-knock jokes. His is about an interrupting chicken instead of a cow! That joke inspired this delightful, funny picture book about a little red chicken being read to by her Papa. Will she ever let him finish a story the way it's written? The action takes place in a house and bedroom every bit as cozy as those in Goodnight Moon. Stein both wrote and illustrated Interrupting Chicken, a 2011 Caldecott Honor Book,


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