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).

If youWires and Nerve’ve been anywhere near fiction written for teens in the past few years, then you are aware of Marissa Meyer’s highly popular series, The Lunar Chronicles, where fairy tales meet science fiction.  If you haven’t heard of The Lunar Chronicles, then go check them out.  Right now.  You’ll be glad you did.  They’re deliciously addictive and easily devoured.

The series is set in a distant future where the moon is populated with telepaths ruled by a vicious queen bent on taking over Earth.  Cars levitate magnetically, space travel is commonplace, ID chips are implanted into humans, and robots are ubiquitous.  Four familiar fairy tale characters are introduced over the course of as many novels, each named for one of these heroines—Cinder (a cyborg mechanic living in China), Scarlet (a French farm girl who sports her favorite red hoodie and lives with her grandmother), Cress (an extraordinarily skilled computer hacker with extraordinarily long hair who has been locked away since childhood), and Winter (a telepathic Lunar who refuses to use her powers and happens to be the evil queen’s stepdaughter).  Meyer adds a compelling, rounded cast of strong secondary characters to her sci-fi/fantasy mix then throws in plenty of adventure and a dash of romance to create an amazing epic.

Just when you think she’s finished her tales, Meyer plucks a secondary character—one of the ubiquitous robots—to headline a graphic novel series set in the Lunar universe.  Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 seamlessly picks up where the adventures in the Lunar Chronicles stopped.  But before we continue, if you are currently reading the Lunar Chronicles or plan to do so for the first time in the near future please note that this next chapter lies in spoiler territory.  The beginning pages of Wires and Nerve introduce the leads of the original series and continue its plotline—details of which will disappoint readers who have yet to complete (much less begin) the series.

If that’s not a concern to you, then Wire and Nerves is a great read all on its own—no Lunar backstory is necessary to follow and enjoy Meyer’s first graphic novel (an item checked off her bucket list, according to her website).  She focuses on Cinder’s android pal, Iko, for this book to great effect.  An important character in the original series, Iko sometimes took a back seat to the humans.  Here, Meyer places Iko front and center.  Although the other characters are featured, it’s Iko’s story from the start.  She has been assigned to round up packs of rogue, engineered, wolf-Lunar hybrids from their hideouts on Earth and deliver them back to Luna for trial.  Because she’s an android, she can complete the job quicker, easier, and with fewer injuries than her Earthen and Lunar colleagues.  However, Iko’s personality chip has become more human over the years (a version of Pinocchio’s inward journey to becoming a real boy) which has left her delightfully sassy although vulnerable to vanity, jealousy, and doubt.  Iko gives her best effort to the mission, but will it be enough?  After some entertaining fight scenes and witty dialogue plus suspense (Ambush! Kidnappers!), Marissa Meyer leaves Iko and readers dangling with an ominously-toned cliffhanger.  I wanted a sequel the minute I turned the final page.

Iko’s outward journey is as captivating and action-packed as anything in the Lunar Chronicles.  Her inward journey makes the story even more appealing.  Within that quickly-moving plot, Meyer sets up an exploration of the price of fame as well as what makes us human.  She started the exploration in Cinder, considering the outcome of mixing mechanical and electronic parts with human flesh; here, Meyer takes the idea further by encasing human emotions in an android.  Don’t worry—the author doesn’t spoil the fun.  All of these Big Thoughts are kept palatable and entertaining although no less thought-provoking.

The graphic novel’s somewhat cartoony art—closer to Lumberjanes than to Peanuts—helps keep the Big Thoughts grounded and accessible.  The action moves beyond the limitations set by drawing the story in panel format.  The characters appear expressive, particularly in their facial expressions.  The entire book is done in bluetone (think sepia tone but using a few shades of blue), and the cumulative effect of it reminded me of blue-screened, backlight electronics.  Characters are drawn lively, vibrant, and engaging; they drew me in from the start.  Yet, they don’t look like the ones I pictured as I read the original series.  If that really bothers you, then definitely read the original books first and possibly think twice about the graphic novel.  Honestly, the art is so engaging that you can easily move past it.

You can find Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 in the library’s Teen Department along with the rest of the Lunar Chronicles.  I hope you enjoy it!

I can’t lie, friends, I’ve been in a reading slump. Yes, that’s right, it even happens to librarians. Sometimes there’s just a lot of pressure to pick the “right” book for a review. Sometimes life just gets in the way. Sometimes there’s a lot of knitting to be done and shows in the Netflix queue. So, to make up for my recent lack of reading, I decided to bring you some of my favorite reads from 2016 that didn’t get a review here for whatever reason.

hikeThe Hike by Drew Magary — In the words of a literature professor I know, this book is “weird, wacky stuff.” To make it very simple, a man takes a hike, gets lost, and ends up taking a journey full of mythological references, puzzles, and talking crabs. Well, just one talking crab. The Hike is definitely a weird book, but I also found it laugh-out-loud funny and incredibly compelling. Magary explores not just the wacky, but what it means for a person to choose their destiny.

Y the Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan — A graphic novel series that is (supposedly) going to make a debut as a TV series on FX sometime in the future. Vaughan deals with an interesting scenario: what if every man on Earth died suddenly and all at once? Why did it happen? What will happen to the planet now? And how will the last surviving man, Yorick, manage to survive? Lots of different issues are covered in this series and I would definitely say it’s best suited for adult readers with open minds.

todaysempleToday Will Be Different by Maria Semple — I admit, this wasn’t one of my favorite reads of the year. But as I think back on it, I find I’m more fond of the plot. Eleanor Flood is a woman who is going to change her life. She decides to make everything different, to be the woman she really wants to be. A better mother, a better wife. But then, things start to fall apart. She winds up following her husband in an attempt to discover a secret he’s been keeping from her. But I promise it’s not the secret you think it is.

Lady Killer by Joëlle Jones — A new graphic novel series that I look forward to following. Set in the 1960s, Lady Killer follows the story of Josie Schuller, perfect housewife and deadly assassin. Can she escape her past and have the ideal life? Well, no. This is definitely a graphic novel; the illustrations and plot leave little to the imagination when it comes to violence. But, it’s a different take on the whole assassin character, which makes it a fun read for me.

bestfriendhendrixMy Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix — My very first book review was of Hendrix’s book Horrorstör. If you’re a fan of comedy and horror, I have to recommend his latest endeavor. Teenage girls, cliques, the 80s, and demonic possession all come together to tell a story of the healing power of friendship. The characters are funny and real while dealing with both the everyday concerns of teenagers and the possibility that their best friend may well be possessed by a demon.

So, there we have it. Five reads from 2016 that I think are worth your while. I can assure you that, even though I’ve had a tough start with reading this year, my to-read list has continued to grow. There are definitely other great reads out there; we add them to our shelves every week at the library.

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Ru daddin doodin unk furt! Ta ta oodas! Voobeck!

If you are confused, believe me, so was I! Those who read my reviews might remember that I’m a sucker for children’s books. So, I thought reviewing an award-winning picture book might fit the bill.

“Du Iz Tak?” by Carson Ellis is a Caldecott Honor Book for 2017. The Caldecott Medal is given out each year by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

The winner of this year’s award was checked out, so I chose “Du Iz Tak?” one of the four 2017 Honor Books. I opened the book and began reading quickly.

None of the book is in English. The author created her own language for the book, relying on simple art and illustration to tell the story. To say I was underwhelmed was an understatement.

Then, at a library department head meeting, I was expressing my incredulity at the book and began to read it aloud to them. Somehow, something about reading it aloud gave it more meaning and made it interesting and delightful.

This is the type of book you can go back to again and again, picking up more details each time you go through the book. The youngest of readers or listeners will enjoy the absurdity of hearing this language and finding out what happens. Older readers will enjoy decoding, from the text itself, inference or the illustrations, that there really is a language here, and figuring out what the text actually says.

Either way, it’s a great learning activity to do with your children or grandchildren.

“Du Iz Tak?” is the story of a two damselflies who watch the shoot of a tiny plant unfurl. As they watch it grow, they wonder if they can create a fort within its leaves. Their work isn’t without problems as they are invaded by a spider and a ravenous bird.

In addition to being a wonderful story about the bugs’ creation, this also shows the cycle of life and seasons. It ends with a picture of hope.

My opinion of this book has changed from “flat-out weird” to “charming.” So charming, in fact, that when I served as a guest-reader in my daughter’s third-grade classroom last week, guess what book I brought?

Speaking of picture books at the library, here’s something new coming to Joplin Public Library. When we move to the new building (which should be late April or early May!), we are also re-organizing our picture book collection. Currently, they are shelved by the author’s last name in traditional library-ese.

However, kids usually want to find picture books based on what they are about, not who wrote them. So, finding books about dogs, or dinosaurs, or trucks, or families or whatever they enjoy can be a challenge. We will be changing this and shelving picture books by topic. Tammie Benham, our Children’s Librarian, has put all the picture books into about 10 major categories, with smaller categories in each. So, for example, all the books about animals will be together, with dogs, cats and zoo animals shelved separately within that section.

We hope this will make it simpler for your child to search for “just the right book.”

 

Working at the library has many benefits for an avid reader such as myself. One of them is getting to check out the sales shelf each day and finding additions to my ever-growing book collection. The library has a constant sales shelf filled with donations we can’t use in our collection, including books, magazines, movies and the occasional record album or puzzle set, and books pulled from our collection. At the rate that I buy books from the sales shelf I’m sure to be featured if a “Book Hoarders” television series is ever filmed.

This week I was delighted to find a couple entries in a favorite series that the library has in its collection as well. The “Incarnations of Immortality” books by Piers Anthony are old favorites that I’m rereading after having them come to my attention again. The series has the premise that Death, Time, Fate, War and Nature are jobs filled with actual people.

The first book in the series (and I’m of the opinion that you should always read books in order) is “On a Pale Horse” and features the role of Death. The book opens with Zane accidently killing Death, which means he must immediately fill the vacant position. Zane has a steep learning curve and makes mistakes, but he’s determined to do a good job. Zane is introduced to the other Incarnations and becomes mired in an intrigue masterminded by Satan. He soon comes to the conclusion that this job may the Death of him.

The following books are “Bearing an Hourglass,” featuring Time; “With a Tangled Skein,” for the Aspects of Fate; “Wielding a Red Sword,” focusing on War; and “Being a Green Mother,” with Nature front and center. These books explore questions of good and evil, world religions, and the afterlife. I also have to say that they’re action-packed reads with romance, intrigue and supernatural aspects combined.

Piers Anthony’s series featuring these larger-than-life characters is a great read, and the first five books can be found at the Joplin Public Library. You can also check out the sales shelf while at the library to see what treasures can be found for a low price. One nice thing about buying a book off the sales shelf is that you don’t have to worry about late fines if you forget to return it on time!

flyingThis anthology of short stories is edited by Ellen Oh, author and President of the We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) movement.  Oh has gathered an impressive group of authors who each present a vivid and memorable voice.  Each story allows the reader to immerse herself in a different cultural experience.  A true representation of the melting pot that is the United States of America, readers may see themselves in these stories, or have the opportunity to peek into the lives of individuals who may be vastly different than their own.

 

From Kwame Alexander’s “mostly true” memoir of a young man in an Honor’s English class, to Soman Chainani’s bittersweet tale of a young boy’s journey of enlightenment, to the childhood grief of losing a parent projected so perfectly in Kelly Baptist’s chronicles, this book is full of tales that are sure to captive a wide, and hopefully diverse, audience.  The star-studded list of authors are impressive in their own right and Oh ensures their work continues to be read with the inclusion of an “About the Authors,” appendage.  The quality you’ll find inside these pages is inspiring.

 

However different the scenery in each story, some common themes emerge.  The varied experiences of children leave their mark, no matter in which culture they happen.  At the end of each story, I found myself wanting to know what happens next, always a sign of an excellent reading experience.