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index.aspxWorking at the reference desk I often learn about books by readers asking for help – either in locating the desired title or finding the next title in a series. Some titles peak my interest but with so many good books to read I lose track of the title/author.

Such was the case with Jill Eileen Smith’s historical fiction books on women of the Bible. Fortunately, I spotted the latest on the New Fiction shelves reminding me of my interest.

Redeeming Grace: Ruth’s Story is actually the third in the Daughters of the Promised Land series. However, the series is a theme not a continuation so you can read out of order and not feel as though you are missing anything. If you are a stickler for order, the library has the first two in the series “The Crimson Cord: Rehab’s Story” and “The Prophetess: Deborah’s Story”.

Ruth’s story is also the story of Naomi. Naomi lived in Bethlehem with her husband Elimelech, sons Mahlon and Chilion, and their extended family. In 1296 B.C. Bethlehem and Israel were suffering through drought and eventual famine. Elimelech’s brother Boaz had convinced him to keep working the land despite the drought.

But after 2 years he stopped listening to Boaz and gave up hoping and praying for rain. He made the decision to take his sons to Moab and work the fields there. Naomi did not want to leave Bethlehem but would not let them go without her so the whole family made the journey to Dibon. Ruth and her friend Orpah were at the marketplace when the family arrived and were the first to offer a welcome.

Elimelech was able to secure land from the governor and soon prospered in Moab. His crops flourished and he was able to build a home for his family. Naomi remained true to her faith but her husband and sons were seduced by the festivals and lifestyle of the Moabites spending more and more evenings in Dibon. One such evening Elimelech didn’t come home. Naomi found his body in the road; he had been mauled by a bear.

With the death of her husband Naomi tried to convince her sons to return to Bethlehem. However, the beauties Ruth and Orpah had caught the eye of her sons and they declared their intention to stay and marry.

The custom in Moab was for fathers to choose husbands for their daughters. Ruth and Orpah had both lost their fathers in the war with Israel meaning they could make the choice of who they would marry. Ruth’s mother and the governor planned for Ruth to marry his son, Te’oma. She wanted no part of that arrangement and readily accepted Mahlon’s request to marry.

Ruth’s story truly begins when she marries and becomes Naomi’s daughter-in-law.  Ruth’s devotion to her new family and the growth of her faith sustain her through the many trials she faces. Heartache, loss and hardship test both women but Ruth remains hopeful for a better life and a second chance for love.

This dramatization of Ruth’s life is well done and an engrossing read.  Smith’s research on life and customs of the Israelites and Moabites offers readers a glimpse into what life was like during Ruth’s time.

You can enjoy it without ever having read Ruth in the Old Testament. If you have read it, you’ll find that Smith has crafted a novel that captures the lesson of love exemplified by Ruth in the book.

photoarkWow! Hundreds of amazing photographs fill the pages of The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals by Joel Sartore from the fine folks at National Geographic. Sartore has spent most of the last decade travelling around the world to zoos, wildlife centers, private homes and wherever animals live under human care to photograph as many species as he can. So far, that’s over 6,000 species, several hundred of which are included here. He is the founder of National Geographic’s Photo Ark which hopes to add photos of every species under human care to its archive. In his introductory essay, Douglas Chadwick (wildlife biologist and journalist) points out that while Earth’s human population nearly doubled from 3.7 billion in 1970 to 7.5 billion now, during that same time, the number of large land animals fell by half. Ninety percent of the living land animals today are humans and their livestock. Fifty-nine percent of all large (over 33 pounds) and sixty percent of herbivores over 220 pounds are officially threatened with extinction. If pollution and other effects of human existence do not change, one-third of all species could be gone by 2100. Aside from the awful statistics and anxieties about extinctions and ecological disaster, it’s a lovely essay about biodiversity and what makes it a good thing, including how beautiful and interesting so many animals of all sorts are.

In his own essay, Sartore explains the genesis of the Photo Ark project. His wife was diagnosed with breast cancer which caused him to take stock of his life and work as well as to try to figure out what he could do for work while staying close to home (as he normally travelled for months at a time to find animals in remote locations to photograph). He decided to do something worthwhile—photographing as many endangered animals as he could—as well as work that would not require such long trips, which made zoos and the like great places to work. He began his photo ark with a naked mole rat at the Lincoln (Nebraska) Children’s Zoo, a mile from his home. His wife has recovered, and his work continues. He plans to photograph all 12,000+ captive species over the next 15 years, making this a 25-year project.

The animals are photographed in front of either black or white paper backgrounds in studio portrait style and the layouts vary, but are carefully thought out. For instance, in Chapter One (Mirrors), one page might be a bird with various shades of blue plumage while the facing page is a similarly colored butterfly, or a praying mantis on one side with an arctic fox on the other, both with their heads cocked or a giant deep-sea roach appearing to face off with a very similarly shaped Southern three-banded armadillo.  Chapter Two (Partners) features either photos of paired/grouped animals (breeding pairs or friends or littermates, mother and cub and whatnot) or opposite pages of “birds and bees” or “owl and pussycat” and so on. Chapter Three (Opposites) focuses on the unlike or antagonistic (snail and cheetah, Siamese fighting fish, a tiny katydid and a huge stick insect, etc.). “Curiosities” are featured in Chapter Four, your echidnas, platypuses, tarsiers, and other unusual animals along with strangely posed animals or pairings. Finally, Chapter Five presents “Stories of Hope.” Animals like the Bali mynah, rescued by a captive breeding program and re-introduced to the wild or our own Kirtland’s warbler, the rarest songbird in North America. A happy accident (a controlled fire that got out of hand) enabled scientists (in cooperation with nature) to reclaim the habitat necessary for their survival. The birds only nest in 10-foot tall or shorter Jack pines and, given those again via fire and plantings, are now making a comeback. Golden Lion tamarins are being bred in captivity and released to the wild in a repopulation effort that appears to be paying off. By the way, their “cousins”, the cotton-top tamarin, are the focus of Springfield’s Dickinson Park Zoo’s Proyecto Titi, a conservation effort to help preserve it, one of the most endangered primates in the wild.

Each photo is captioned with the animal’s species and its level of existential threat according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. So, EX equals extinct, EW is extinct in the wild, CR is critically endangered, EN is endangered, VU stands for vulnerable, NT is near threatened, LC means least concern, DD indicates data deficient, and NE means not evaluated.

There are a few scattered pages of “behind the scenes” looks at some of the photo shoots, capturing some of the methodology used in getting these extraordinary photos. Also distributed throughout are several “heroes” who have dedicated themselves to assorted conservation efforts, including raptor recovery, endangered primates, extinct in the wild pheasants, and others. The book concludes with an index of the animals photographed including the zoo or other center where the animal was photographed along with their web address.

Open to any random page and enjoy and, to cap it off, learn a bit about conservation efforts and why we need them.

 

One of the great pleasures of my job is unpacking the new materials that arrive daily at the library. Books, DVDs, CDs – you name it, I get my hands on it fresh out of the box. Because I’m fortunate enough to receive this first look, I come across treasures that otherwise might not appear on my reading radar.

One such treasure is “Fanny in France,” a children’s book – juvenile fiction, to be precise – written by the esteemed chef and restaurateur, Alice Waters, with Bob Carrau. This delightful work is comprised of a series of vignettes about the food, friends and fun that Waters’ daughter experienced in France as a child.

Whether she’s describing a daylong effort making bouillabaisse at a Marseille vineyard, an impromptu picnic when becoming stranded while harvesting wild oysters, or making delicious cheese from the freshest of sheep’s milk, Fanny’s adventures and narrative voice enchant the reader with her honesty and sense of wonder.

Join her in the excitement of Bastille Day in Paris, eat sea urchin pulled from the ocean moments before, and get lost in a bustling outdoor market in Nice. Meet characters like Monsieur Poilane, a traditional baker who offers Fanny a “kid-size bubbling apple tart” straight from the huge brick oven in his basement, or Alice Waters’ artist friend Martine, who scours flea markets for special dinner party accoutrements and feeds a crowd of nine with one roast chicken.

Pick up valuable culinary tips. Learn to select fish by looking at the eyes; “if the fish’s eyes are shiny and clear and they look right back” at you, it’s good to eat. Cook like a chef by putting together a mirepoix, “a special mixture of carefully chopped vegetables and herbs that French people use to start lots of things they cook.” When making pizza dough, handle it tenderly, only stretching it as far as it wants to go; “let the dough guide you,” Fanny instructs.

In addition to anecdotes, “Fanny in France” contains recipes for the dishes mentioned throughout the book. Looking for light meal ideas? You might try the Watercress or Garlic Soup, or even a Salade Nicoise, an omelet or a Croque-Monsieur, also known as a grilled cheese sandwich. Want to wow dinner guests? Consider the Couscous Royal with Chermoula, a spicy North African herb sauce, or the Roasted Herbed Rack of Lamb. Craving something sweet? Throw together an Almond Brown Butter Cake or Chocolate Souffle for a decadent treat.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the glorious, adorable artwork by Ann Arnold. Its colorful detail adds a wealth of richness to “Fanny in France.”

Finally, lest you think you’d need a few years of high school French to read this book, never fear. There is a glossary in the final pages of “Fanny in France,” and the author does a great job of casually translating as she goes along. Nevertheless, I found to my delight that I’d retained enough of my six years of French to understand everything.

You can find “Fanny in France” in the Children’s Department of the Joplin Public Library.  I hope you relish it as much as I did. Happy travels, and bon appetit!

 

Reviewed by Tammie Benham

I’ve been reading my way through the Mark Twain nominees.  There are several excellent selections this year.  The book that has made the biggest impression so far has been, The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.

This story of human resilience in the face of the adversity demonstrates what that determination can change the course of a human life.

Ada cannot remember ever leaving the one-bedroom apartment where she lives with her younger brother, Jamie and her mother.  She isn’t sure of her age and her mother refuses to tell her.  Her best guess is she’s less than ten years old.

Crippled with a club foot and her mother’s shame, Ada’s life consists of constant emotional and physical abuse and neglect until one day when news of the evacuation of children from London reaches her.  Although her fear is more of a life lived from a chair beside a window than impending bombing, Ada uses this opportunity to escape the only life she’s known.

When the children arrive in the country they find themselves being selected by families to be fostered.  Ada is so filthy that she doesn’t recognize herself when she looks into a bathroom mirror and Jamie is no better. They are left out of the selection process.  However, the local gentry organizing foster families refuses to give up on Ada and Jamie, taking them to a house in the country where Ada falls in love with a horse at first sight.

The woman who grudgingly takes in the children is named Susan and she is grieving a great loss.  She is bullied into doing her duty to take care of the children and shows them what she believes to be a minimal amount of attention.  Having been neglected for so long, the children flourish in the little attention they receive.

Susan glimpses the past lives of the children in some of their odd behavior but understands she cannot get Ada the operation she needs on her club foot without the permission of Ada’s mother.  However, her letters to the children’s mother go unanswered and war comes to the village.

When Ada’s mother finally shows up at Susan’s house she is quick to point out the only reason she’s there is because she’s being forced to pay for the upkeep of her children if they stay in the country.  How will Ada and Jamie ever go back to living the life they once escaped?

Based on actual events during WWII, this work of historical fiction is a 2016 Newbery Honor Book and a 2016 Schneider Family Book Award Winner.

ocdaniel

Reviewed by Tammie Benham

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), rules Daniel’s life.  When the “zaps” hit, he gets stuck in a self-destructive pattern that can last for hours.  The zaps are particularly relentless at bedtime when he believes if he doesn’t complete his “routine,” he will die.

In this coming-of-age story, Daniel’s best friend since grade school, Max is the star quarterback for the Erie Hills Elephants.  Daniel spends most of his time as the Substitute Kicker trying not to be noticed and arranging cups of water for his team mates.

Despite his many idiosyncrasies, Daniel is a typical middle-school aged boy.  There is a girl he likes who may like him back.  Max encourages Daniel’s blossoming friendship with Raya while holding off the less-than-nonchalant advances of Clara.

Just when things between Daniel and Raya are beginning to turn into the possibility of something more, Psycho Sara, who talks to no-one at school and doesn’t even speak to her own mother, starts to talk to Daniel.  Daniel might have ignored Sara if not for her cryptic naming of him as a fellow, “Star-Child.”

Afraid that he may be just as crazy as Sara has been labeled, intrigued that Sara isn’t nearly as crazy as everyone believes her to be,  and feeling a strong sense of belonging with Sara that he doesn’t feel as strongly with Raya, Daniel is caught between what’s familiar and what might be an exciting adventure.

As the state football finals approach, Daniel is caught in another dilemma.  The starting Kicker is suddenly ill and he is placed into the spotlight.  Through a series of events, the pressure and expectations on Daniel continues to increase, along with his anxiety.  Finding it more and more difficult to hide his “zaps,” he wonders how long he can keep his craziness hidden.  The only person who seems to see the hidden Daniel is Psycho Sara.

OCDaniel is an interesting look into the world of someone suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Anyone who is not familiar with how debilitating OCD can become will have their eyes opened by this inside look.  Children wondering about their inability to control certain patterns in their behavior may see themselves.  Ultimately, this is a book for those who are feeling different and looking for a place to belong.

dust bowlWith March Madness in full swing and the winning streak of the Connecticut Huskies women extending to 107 games, Lydia Reeder’s new book on another record setting basketball team is a timely addition to our collection.

Depression era Oklahoma was not the first place I thought of when talking about women’s basketball. Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team That Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory has changed my perception. It’s the story of the Oklahoma Presbyterian College Cardinals and their 1931/1932 championship season.

The author has combined family, social, and sports history to bring this remarkable team to life. Reeder’s great-uncle, Sam Babb, was coach, recruiter, and fund raiser for the Cardinals. He joined OPC, a tiny junior college located in Durant, in 1929 as professor and basketball coach.

When Babb recruited he looked for players with talent and character. He found both qualities in prolific shooter Doll Harris. She joined the Cardinals in the fall of 1930 and for the first time in team history they were invited to the American Athletic Union (AAU) National Tournament.

Doll was named an All-American and they brought home a trophy – for sportsmanship. The Dallas Golden Cyclones led by Babe Didrikson won the championship. Babb knew his team could do better so he took to the road travelling to farming communities in Oklahoma.

He offered the young women the opportunity to go college for free and play basketball for OPC. The Depression was worsening and many of these players worked family farms that were struggling to survive. The decision to leave, even for a free education, was not easy. Babb was persuasive and 35 players accepted scholarships.

Women’s basketball in the 1930s was much different than what we see today.  It wasn’t until 1970 that the game changed to what is played now. Then women were considered too delicate for such a vigorous sport so they played half court with 6 members to a team.

Some believed even this level of competition was too much. Reeder explores the history and attitudes on women and competitive sports throughout the book.  It’s interesting and highlights the difficulties for teams especially with funding.

The AAU encouraged competitive sports for women whereas most colleges emphasized less vigorous activity. Many of the teams in the AAU were sponsored by companies and college teams like the Cardinals needed donations and gate receipts to survive.

Babb was very good at fund-raising and managed to pay for scholarships but a barnstorming tour over Christmas break was needed to fund the team. Practice was every morning from 4am -6am (they used Southeastern State’s gym when the men didn’t need it). They also had to run at least 1 mile and shoot 100 free throws each day. Their first game was in December when they scrimmaged with a high school team.

By the time of their barnstorm tour through Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas the rigorous practices in addition to school commitments had reduced the roster to 16. The tour started in Celeste, TX for the first of 17 games. Three weeks later they had won every game including one in Dallas with last year’s national champions. They finished the season undefeated and were invited to the national tournament.

Much of the story of the team and season is related by 2 of the players, Doll Harris and 16-year-old Lucille Thurman. Through Doll and Lucille you feel the drive, dedication, and camaraderie develop as they become a team.

You also see the conflict of being a woman and an athlete. News coverage gave as much emphasis to how they looked as to how they played. The biggest trophy awarded at the tournament was given to the winner of the player beauty pageant.

The record books tell us they won the AAU national championship becoming the first college team to hold the title. From 1931-1934 they won 2 championships and 89 straight games. What Reeder tells us is who Sam Babb and the OPC Cardinals were and how they did it.

If you enjoyed “The Boys in the Boat”, you will definitely want to read “Dust Bowl Girls”.

index.aspxAs Tennyson had it, “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Well, around our house, that’s “thoughts of gardens.” In light of the rapid approach of spring on the 20th, it’s once again time to finish up (or start, for procrastinators) plans for what to plant this year. With that in mind, I present you with Victory Gardens for Bees: A DIY Guide to saving the Bees by Lori Weidenhammer.

As you probably know, there’s a crisis in the bee world. Over one-third of edible crops and three-quarters of flowering plants are pollinated by bees, and honeybees and most other bees are in drastic decline. At least four native species of bees have become extinct, and over fifty others are endangered. Why is this happening? Answers are complicated, but include climate change (which alters the timing of blooms so that they no longer coincide with bee needs), pesticides, habitat loss and parasites. Obviously, some of these things are out of the average person’s control, but we can help provide food and habitat for bees in our own yards. This book aims to help people do just that while also providing nice gardens for ourselves.The concept of a Victory Garden goes back to wartime and helping the war effort by growing food for one’s own household to free up resources for the war effort. The author has carried the concept over to helping in the “war” to help the bees survive and thrive.

Let us begin with the bees themselves. Most of us probably just think about honeybees (when we think of bees at all), but there are over 4,000 known bee species in North America alone! That does not, by the way, include honeybees. They are native to Europe. Not all bees make honey or live in hives, but all are pollinators, so all are important. There are pictures and information on a number of bees here, and tips for how you can help each of them in your yard whether for food or habitat. If you have trouble growing a lush lawn, you may be happy to know that one way to help a number of species of bees is to leave bare patches of ground because they nest in the ground and prefer it grass-free. Once you have gotten your fill of bee species information, you can move on to the enormous information on bee-friendly plants.

There are numerous seasonal charts of plants both for nectar and pollen. Perennials, shrubs, trees, meadow/pasture, natives, vegetables, herbs, plants “with benefits” (those that attract other beneficial insects, deter pests, are edible, etc.), and “weeds to leave” (“I’m not lazy—I leave dandelions for the bees!”) are all charted here. The charts are very detailed and useful, including hardiness zones, whether native or not, blooming period, what bees (and other beneficial insects) are attracted to them, heights and various plant notes.

Also included are a number of adaptable planting designs to help make attractive as well as useful landscapes. Whether you have a small patch to plant or acres and acres, you can find useful designs here. There are lots of photos of plants as well as bees, the aforementioned charts and designs, and the layout is varied and very attractive. I’d say this is an excellent resource for anyone interested in giving the bees a helping hand. By the way, if you are interested in perhaps providing a home for bees of your own (and getting some honey out of the deal), we also have a number of books on beekeeping to round out your education on bees. Buzz on in and check them out! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself).