Nonfiction

Queen of the Falls

In a couple weeks, I get to visit the Adirondack region of New York State. (Can't wait!) On the way, we plan to stop at Niagara Falls. When I get there, I'll be thinking of a woman named Annie Edson Taylor, who in 1901, on her 63rd birthday, dared to cram herself into a wooden barrel and go over Niagara Falls! I had never heard of Taylor, but author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg brings her back to life in Queen of the Falls, the fascinating tale of a determined ex-teacher who wanted to make her mark on the world. Watch Van Allsburg talk about how he created this carefully crafted book here. Recommended for grades 1 and up.

The Daring Book for Girls

I purchased a copy of The Daring Book for Girls for myself a couple years ago and was reminded of all the cool content it contains when I conducted a program this week featuring hopscotch games and jump rope rhymes. Perhaps I'm partial to this book since it was written by women who, like me, "were girls in the days before the Web, cell phones, or even voicemail. Telephones had cords and were dialed by, well, actually dialing."

Today, you may have your own cell phone, email account and iPod, but certainly a deck of cards and a good book should still be included on the list of "essential gear" you keep close at hand. In The Daring Book for Girls, you'll find the rules for playing card games like "Hearts" and "Gin" as well as the rules for outdoor games like Four Square, various games of tag and hopscotch - a game that was initially played by Roman soldiers and is now played in countries around the world.
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Mark Twain: Man in Whte

Man in White"The report of my death was an exaggeration." Most people have heard this famous quote by one of our most beloved writers. Mark Twain: Man in White focuses on the last four years of Twain's life when his fame was at its peak, and the problems that dogged his life, including the bad health of loved ones and the stealing of his money by associates also continued.

But what a wonderful man Twain was--always up for a good practical joke, always putting his entire self into his writing and gosh, thoroughly addicted to playing pool. Not only addicted to it, but he was one of those hosts that had to beat you if only by a little.
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Fighting Words

Fighting WordsNot only do I spent a lot of time reading books, but I spend a lot of time reading about books. I recently ran across Flavorwire's article 'The 30 Harshest Author-on-Author Insults In History' and I have to admit that I laughed out loud. Collected here are real quotes from authors about authors - disparaging in a cruel but also often funny way.
My favorite? Truman Capote on Jack Kerouac - "That's not writing, that's typing." Ha!
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Into the Storm

ImageTuscaloosa, St. Louis, Joplin, Missouri? Do these names ring a bell? Unfortunately, they've been ground zero for a few of this season's most serious tornadoes. While checking the new shelf, I came across Reed Timmer's new book about his odyssey from a geeky 19 year-old college student to the most famous "storm chaser" around.
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How Bad Are Bananas?

ImageIt seems common knowledge that riding your bike to work is a low carbon activity. What you might not know if that if you fuel your bike ride with air-freighted off season asparagus, then your carbon footprint increases dramatically and you'd be better off commuting buy Hummer. The art and science of taking into account many aspects of what constitutes a carbon footprint has often been ignored.
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We Live in Public (2009)

"Everything is free except the video we take of you. That we own...and we're gong to sell it back to you."

So says Josh Harris, the subject of We Live in Public, the latest documentary from Dig! director, Ondi Timoner, as he describes his latest experiment with the effects of being constantly recorded. For anyone who loves the Internet or reality television, this will be a very interesting documentary. Read more »

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming

How I Killed PlutoOK, who can resist a title like How I Killed Pluto...? It promises and then delivers a light, interesting take on the Pluto demotion from one of the nine big ones to a dwarf planet at the edge of our solar system. "My very excellent mother just served us nine pizzas." Do you remember that line from science class in grade school? The words helped us remember the planets and their order in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto. Alas, now mother is just serving us nine___?
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No More Dirty Looks

No More Dirty LooksHave you ever read the back of your shampoo bottle and wondered what all those ingredients actually are? Then No More Dirty Looks by Siobhan O'Connor and Alexandra Spunt is for you. The beauty product industry is both huge and powerful and generally don't want consumers to know that most of their products contain thousands of chemicals that can readily be absorbed through our skin. Many of these chemicals are known irritants, and some are possible carcinogens. Read more »

Frogs - Where are You??

There is nothing that heralds the arrival of Spring like the sound of the spring peepers. I enjoyed listening to their chorus when it was warm enough a couple weeks ago to open the windows and hear them singing in the evening from the creek in the backyard. But frogs are often hard to see - especially now that the weather has turned cold again!

To get a wonderful close up peek at spring peepers and other frogs, take a look at Nic Bishop's book Frogs. It's filled with beautiful color photographs of a variety of frogs and fascinating facts about them, too. Read more »

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