My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs by Brian Switek
Last November, the library hosted a Paleo Preschool program with the St. Louis Science Center, before which I had a conversation with the scientist who came to present the program. During this time, she recommended My Beloved Brontosaurus, dino non-fiction for adults, updating all the old facts we've come to hold near and dear to our hearts for all these years. I finally requested it, and wow! Is it great!
Self-proclaimed "fossil fanatic" and amateur paleontologist Brian Switek gives us the low-down on the dinosaurs we love and new scientific discoveries, many of which bust a lot of myths we've come to believe. In here you'll find out how dinos may have been much more colorful, befeathered, and melodic than how they're represented in pop culture. Switek, a regular contributor to many renowned publications like Scientific American and National Geographic, is incredibly accessible, referencing movies and making jokes the whole way--from how stegosauruses had sex to the the demise of the titular beloved brontosaurus. I checked this out on audio--a fabulous listen, read by the author--which needs to be accessed through interlibrary loan if you'd prefer to listen to it, but don't miss the hardcover for all the pictures!
News of the World has been a really popular book, and after reading it, I can see why. Paulette Jiles did meticulous research in order to take us on a post-Civil War journey from northern to southern Texas. Captain Kidd, an elderly veteran and widower, has reluctantly agreed to take a young girl (Johanna) to near San Antonio to be reunited with her aunt and uncle. She was taken captive by the Kiowa Indians, and her parents killed, four years previously. The Captain has made a life from traveling around the towns of Texas, getting paid to read newspapers from faraway places to people who have little other communication with the rest of the world. It appears he's made a mistake in agreeing to make the journey with Johanna--she only speaks Kiowa, has completely abandoned the ways of white people, and having been once again wrenched away from the only life she knows, is by turns difficult, sullen, and terrified. Also, Texas at this time is largely lawless, not every stranger along the way proves to be a friend, and the elements themselves, such as flooded rivers, all combine to make for a perilous journey indeed.
I was struck by Jiles' skill in showing the clash between cultures, the difficulties of communicating for the two main characters, and yet what's possible with Johanna's young mind being able to make new connections as well as reach back into the past, and with the Captain's experience and patience. Along the way, the Captain and Johanna find solace in each other's company, fight together to survive, and show that the concept of "family" is not dicated by one's blood.
Ruby is a Fireblood, living with the power to create and control fire, but she's grown up in a land ruled by Frostbloods, whose power lies in ice. Ruby practices her power and control in secret in her small mountain village until soldiers come searching for her and destroy her home in the process. She spends months stuck in prison, threatened by the guards, only to be broken out by people she has no reason to trust. But they also don't totally trust her, and will only tell her that they need her to complete their plan in overthrowing the Frostblood king.
Every year a group of men convene in a middle tier hotel in an unnamed town to recreate the famous football play that resulted in Giants player Joe Theismann breaking his leg in two places on Monday Night Football in 1985. I would never have picked this book up if it weren't for the Morning News Tournament of Books. Football? Not in my interest sphere. I am so glad that I read this book. Bachelder is witty and funny and delves right into the psyche of all of these dudes in a way that is hilarious without mockery. Two nights unfold in the book. We start to learn their stories as they arrive at the hotel. The lottery system for choosing who plays which player on the field creates space for Bachelder to play with the reason behind who wants to play the lead actor or the extras. The weekend ends as quickly as it begins and it's not a book you would read for any startling plot twists. But I definitely have Bachelder on my radar now. He is a clever writer and I look forward to reading more by him.
The Sport of Kings is a contender in this year's Morning News Tournament of Books. (This won't be the last time I mention this fabulous tournament.) Morgan tackles the legacy of slavery in Kentucky by way of the Kentucky Derby. First we meet the Forge family and a young Henry Forge on his plantation. He wants to break from his father's farm. He becomes obsessed with horses and horse racing, a thing his father finds despicable and would disown him for. I found it hard to pin this book down in time. It felt like Henry's youth was taking place in the 1860s when it was more like the 1960s in reality. I hope this was intentional. Then we are introduced to Henry's daughter as she is a grown woman being groomed to take over the business. Until she falls for Allmon Shaughnessy, a groomer she hires. We get Allmon's background as well. His ancestors crossed the river to escape to Ohio while slavery was an institution in Kentucky. Now Allmon finds himself on the wrong side of the river, trying to grab hold of his future. This is a dense and lyrical book yet I found it hard to break through the pages of description and natural history at times. Darwin is huge in this book. But the human drama was nicely told. Allmon's story is much more sympathetic than the Family Forge's, though Allmon and Henrietta Forge both remain victims of their past and we are left with the question of when will history stop repeating itself?
James Watson is a descendant of the great John Watson, partner to Sherlock Holmes and recorder of all their mysteries. But really, Jamie is just a teenage boy, sent from London to attend a boarding school in Connecticut on a rugby scholarship. Jamie's only hope is that he can meet Charlotte Holmes, the many times great granddaughter of his ancestor's counterpart. His mother warned him that all Holmes are trouble, and to stay away, but Jamie can't help wondering about the mysterious Charlotte. When Jamie awkwardly introduces himself and then fights another boy over something said about Charlotte, their relationship is off to a rocky start. Unfortunately, the boy turns up dead, and suspicion immediately falls on the pair. Charlotte is determined to clear their names, and Jamie, still fascinated, is dragged along in Charlotte's investigation.
I thoroughly enjoyed this fun, light-hearted YA mystery. It had the right amount of drama to drag me in, but not so much to be a thriller, or ridiculous. The two main characters are very fully developed, neither being shown as entirely flawless.
Wires and Nerve is a continuation of Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series (which begins with the YA novel Cinder). Unlike the books in the original series, Wires and Nerve is written as a graphic novel with art done by Doug Holgate, and follows a minor character after the original series' end. Iko, Cinder's android friend, suddenly feels unneeded with her friends' new positions in life, and must find her own. Determined to still be a help to Cinder, Iko travels back to Earth to fight the wolf hybrids that went into hiding after the fall of their leader. The beasts are too strong, and the job is too dangerous for any human, but here Iko knows exactly what to do. Unfortunately, even Iko isn't indestructible.
It was an absolute joy to re-read One Crazy Summer this month along with my wonderful Brentwood Bookworms. This first book in the Gaither Sisters trilogy introduces us to Delphine and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. They live with their father and grandmother in New York City, but this one crazy summer, their father decides to send them to Oakland, CA, to be with their estranged mother, Cecile. It's 1968, and tensions are as high in the little stucco house as they are across America. Cecile wants only to work on her poetry, and the girls are sent to the neighborhood community center for meals and summer camp with the local Black Panther chapter. Throughout the turmoil, Delphine will struggle to keep her sisters together, better understand race relations in the U.S., and attempt to forge a bond with her seemingly cold mother. This lovely novel is poignant, funny, and a great discussion-starter for upper-grade school children and tweens!
We are excited to announce a new series of creative writing workshops from River Styx at the Brentwood Public Library! The eight week sesson will be on Sundays from 1-3 pm beginning 3/19 and running until 5/14 (no workshop on 4/16 due to Easter). The session will cost $115. Follow the link now to reserve your spot.
The Creative Writing Workshop is for poetry, fiction, and non-fiction writers alike. In-class exercises will explore poetry concepts such as rhythm and voice; fiction concepts such as point-of-view and magical realism; and non-fiction concepts such as the braided essay. Readings will include work from George Saunders, Dana Levin, Edward McPherson, Adrian Matejka, and Joyce Carol Oates.
This is a quick, fun read if you are obsessed with the Gilmore Girls. Disclaimer, I have not watched all of the new reboot episodes because I am savoring them. I don't want it to ever end! It's also a quick, fun read if you loved Parenthood. Which I did. So imagine what fun it was to read this book and hear her talk about working on both of these great shows. And also, did you know that she has written a work of fiction? And that her editor is Jennifer E. Smith, the YA author who writes lovely romantic novels? Graham's book is called Someday, Someday, Maybe.
Okay, now I have to go finish the Gilmore Girls. Maybe. I really don't want it to be over.