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The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert

Blogging for a Good Book - Fri, 2014-05-09 01:01

Alma Whittaker is born into a life of privilege just outside of Philadelphia, PA in 1800. Her mother is a wealthy, practical, highly educated Dutch woman. Her father is an uneducated, unrefined Englishman who rose from poverty to become one of the wealthiest men in the United States. Together they raise Alma as a highly educated, practical, scientific, and lonely woman. Both fiercely independent in her thinking and loyal to her family, Alma continues in the family trade of botany with her own unique focus of studying mosses. Alma doesn’t sound too interesting, does she? Don’t be deceived.

Alma both anchors and drives The Signature of All Things and as a reader I was vested in her well-being. However, this book is so much more. It is a book about science and faith. It is a glimpse at history in England and the United States in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It is a fascinating travelogue of Tahiti and adventurous ocean voyages. It is a story of how the world can change so quickly and so slowly all at the same time. It is a story about love, grief, and personal growth. It is a story that is well worth the time to read and moves so swiftly you’ll wonder how you breezed through 499 pages (or listened to 18 discs) so quickly.  I’ll admit that in the middle of the book the plot took a turn that I didn’t expect, and I almost quit reading. I wondered how anything could possibly be resolved in a satisfactory way. But if you persevere, it will all come together, just have a little faith.

Juliet Stevenson narrates the audio version of The Signature of All Things, and her narration brings to life the myriad of characters with authenticity. The characters had distinct voices, and the animation in her voice made you feel like you were right in the midst of the vigorous debates that take place in the novel. I loved her accents and especially appreciated how well she brought the men to life without making them sound too feminine or artificial. Whether you read or listen to The Signature of All Things it will be an experience that you are sure to enjoy.

Check the WRL catalog for The Signature of All Things

Check the WRL catalog for The Signature of All Things audiobook on compact discs or downloadable audio.


Guess Again! by Mac Barnett, illus. by Adam Rex

Pied Piper Pics - Fri, 2014-05-09 01:01

Guess Again! is all about misdirection. Each page presents the reader with a rhyming clue and an image in silhouette or behind a lift-the-flap that seems to lead to an obvious answer. Only it isn’t really the answer. It only takes a couple of tries before readers realize that they need to “guess again” and not follow their instincts. Children will begin to see how they were tricked and will find the actual answers very humorous. An additional running gag leads to a great payoff at the end.

Expect your audience to want to linger over the illustrations when they discover what they thought they saw wasn’t really what they saw.

Check the WRL catalog for Guess Again!


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

Dance Academy (2013)

Blogging for a Good Book - Thu, 2014-05-08 01:01

Like many little girls I took dance class as a child. Dressed up in my pink tutu, tights, and soft leather shoes, I would pirouette around the room until I would collapse in giggles on the floor from dizziness. Dance was a fun way to move around but never blossomed into a desire to be a dancer, plus I never had the passion or natural skill to commit to the endless hours of practice. Nevertheless, I remained fascinated by dancers and their dreams to pursue dance professionally, especially ballet. So when I came across the Australian television show Dance Academy, I had to check it out.

Tara Webster’s first dream is to fly, but since gravity gets in the way she takes up dancing instead, because in the moment dance feels like flying. So at age 16 Tara auditions for and is accepted to the prestigious National Dance Academy in Sydney. Little does she know that her education isn’t just about how to be a ballerina but also how to live away from home, work, love, and bounce back from disappointment. She’ll have to assess her dedication to her craft versus her desire to be a normal teenager.

Tara and her friends love to dance for various reasons and work hard to pursue their dreams. They are also typical teenagers living in a metropolitan city, testing their boundaries and their mettle to be professional dancers. The show includes the requisite girl next door, the bad boy, the catty nemesis, and the rebellious best friend, and they have the experiences of the first crush, first love, and first betrayal. But the show also illustrates the hard work and dedication it takes to succeed in dance, incorporating hours of repetitive practice and the drama of competition. Dance Academy doesn’t rely on profanity or shock tactics to navigate the challenges of adolescence. It’s a show that manages to be wholesome without being saccharine and dramatic without devolving into diabolical soap opera machinations. Enjoy this show with the dancers in your life or enjoy it for being a fun glimpse into the world of a professional dance school.

Check the WRL catalog for Dance Academy


Jaded, by Anne Calhoun

Blogging for a Good Book - Wed, 2014-05-07 01:01

Alana Wentworth is a temporary contract librarian in Walkers Ford, South Dakota. She’s always wanted to work in a library, but she has remained loyal to her family’s non-profit, putting her degree to work as their primary researcher. When the position in Walkers Ford came open, Alana couldn’t resist giving librarianship a try, and she is learning that working in a small town library is her passion. She loves helping people.

Lucas Ridgeway spent childhood summers in Walkers Ford and returned for good as the sheriff after a decade stint on Denver’s police force. Lucas was a good cop and is a decent sheriff, but his passion is less about helping people and more about enforcing the law. As Alana gets more involved in the community, she also becomes entangled with Lucas. They both know it can’t last, but for the few months Alana is in town they will make the most of their budding romance.

This is a small town contemporary romance, but Anne Calhoun has created a story that is peopled with characters that are realistic and multi-dimensional. There is no need for sinister danger lurking around the corner or a vindictive ex-lover out to sabotage a new relationship to move the plot along. Calhoun incorporates the everyday relationships and interactions in a small town to help create the foundation for romance. The secondary characters are your neighbors, friends, and family that add layers to the story. We have a hero that is a good man but is no longer willing to be vulnerable and a heroine that can’t help but get involved in the community but doesn’t consider what will happen when she has to leave. It is the interplay between Lucas’s and Alana’s personalities and their roles in the community that make you wonder how they can make their relationship work.

Anne Calhoun is an author to watch. Her small town romance has substance and style while still providing the essential happy ever after. Calhoun writes with purpose and offers a little something extra I can’t define that makes me enthusiastic to read romance again.

Check the WRL catalog for Jaded


Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett, illus. by Kevin Cornell

Pied Piper Pics - Wed, 2014-05-07 01:01

You’d expect that a book titled Count the Monkeys would involve counting some monkeys, but no. Other animals (and people) keep getting in the way. With the turn of each page another creature bars the way between the reader and the monkeys. It is up to the reader to escape, chase away, or avoid each of them with the appropriate method of distraction. Crocodiles, for example, can be confused with the wave of your hand. Wolves, however, are harder to deter (although extremely effective in chasing away grannies). You must cover your eyes to avoid eye contact. Readers may choose to count these animals as they proceed from “one king cobra” to “ten polka-dotted rhinoceroses with bagpipes and bad breath” or they might simply want to count the monkeys, who have been relegated to the book’s end pages.

This is a great book if you are in need of some audience interaction and movement. Encourage children to follow the instructions given by the book’s narrator in order to shoo away each page’s troublesome creature.

Check the WRL catalog for Count the Monkeys.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

The Selection, by Keira Cass

Read This! - Wed, 2014-05-07 01:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

The country of Illéa is divided into thirty-five provinces whose citizens are divided into one of eight castes. They range from Ones – the country’s royal family, to Eights – those who live on the street and have no way to support themselves. America Singer of Carolina is a Five – those with a creative ability such as singing, dancing, or acting. She has no particular aspirations of upward mobility. She only wants to perform, help support her family, and hopefully become the wife of secret love Aspen Leger. The only problem with her plan is that Aspen is a Six – a servant, and doesn’t want to be responsible for bringing America down a level. Then, when Maxon Schreave, Prince of Illéa announces that he will be choosing a wife, suddenly everything changes. It is time for the Selection.

By law, Maxon must marry a “Daughter of Illéa,” in other words, a commoner. One woman from each province will be chosen to travel to the castle to be courted by Maxon, and one will become his wife and eventual Queen of Illéa. Both Aspen and America’s mother are adamant that she enter the Selection. America eventually agrees, both to appease Aspen and because her mother has offered a very attractive bribe. She is certain the odds of being selected are extremely low, but if that were the case, we wouldn’t have much of a story to read, would we?

America becomes one of the Selected and must cope with being away from her family, her friendly and not so friendly fellow contestants, the rebels who routinely attack the castle, and the fact that portions of the Selection are televised for the nation to see. Oh, and that she likes Maxon much more than she ever thought she would. Making matters even more difficult, Aspen dumps her before she leaves Carolina, but she is still very much in love with him. One thing America has going for her is that she is no shrinking violet, which Maxon finds quite appealing. Readers will find it appealing, too. You will root for her, feel her pain, and be proud when she stands her ground.

Check the WRL catalog for The Selection.


Categories: Read This

River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Blogging for a Good Book - Tue, 2014-05-06 01:01

Today’s post is from Janet of the library’s Outreach Services Division:

Reviewing a new cookbook always starts in my kitchen. I read the author’s introduction, flip through the chapters, read through a selection of the recipes, and then zero in on one or two to try. This macro and micro hands-on approach usually gives me a better feel for what the author is offering and helps me compare the book to others of its kind.

In March I explored River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes. Written by Hugh Fearley-Whittingstall, an award-winning cookbook author, British TV chef, and farm-to-table food advocate, this newest River Cottage title is suitable for vegetarians. The purpose of this title was to encourage omnivores to eat more vegetables and to make vegetables a mainstay of our diet.

Fearley-Whittingstall offers an eclectic and creative range of recipes from appetizers, soups, and salads, to entrees and desserts that provide interesting and pleasant flavor combinations and textures. Most of the ingredients should be readily available in most grocery stores. The recipes and instructions, while a challenge for novice cooks are easily handled by the average home chef. The photos are warm and inviting.

I was impressed with the quality of the dishes and the ease of making them. This cookbook was a great match for me as I try to keep most of my meals plant-based. His recipes are so good I tested ten over the course of the month, and then bought the book.

Check the WRL catalog for River Cottage Veg


Crankee Doodle by Tom Angleberger, illus. by Cece Bell

Pied Piper Pics - Mon, 2014-05-05 01:01

What if Yankee Doodle didn’t want to go to town? Whose job would it be to get him there? His pony’s, of course! Tom Angleberger (of Origami Yoda-fame) has taken the traditional song “Yankee Doodle”, and put ol’ Yankee in a bad mood. He’s bored, and his pony’s suggestion that they go to town isn’t of interest to him. Yankee is still not swayed when offered the prospect of going shopping for a feather for his hat. How will pony convince him?

Children will learn that “macaroni” was once a term that meant “fancy”, but is also a word which rhymes with “pony” (fitting suspiciously well into the song’s rhyme scheme). This is perhaps the reason macaroni was chosen for the song rather than lasagna, which Yankee points out is fancier.

“Macaroni isn’t fancy. It’s macaroni. You know what’s fancy? Lasagna. Lasagna is fancy. Lasagna has all those ripples in it, and then it gets baked with cheese and tomatoes and vegetables. Then you eat it with some garlic bread. Now, that’s fancy!”

It may be helpful to read the author’s note at the end aloud to your audience before proceeding to read the book. It provides good background information on the song’s history and will also refresh the audience’s memory of the classic tune.

Check the WRL catalog for Crankee Doodle.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

Divergent, by Veronica Roth

Read This! - Mon, 2014-05-05 01:01

Lizzy shares this review:

Divergent is a novel that drags you to the future of the world. It describes how after a war people divided themselves into five groups. Each group has a quality they represent (Abnegation: The Selfless, Candor: The Honest, Erudite: The Intelligent, Amity: The Peaceful, Dauntless: The Brave). The story centers on a 16 year old girl who lives in Abnegation. When she goes to take her test (to see what faction she tends towards) she learns she’s special; she’s Divergent. The test proctor tells her to never tell anyone. The characters that form are un-believably amazing. Readers are easily attached to them thanks to the author spending time developing them. The setting helps the reader understand the personalities of the factions they are in. Abnegation members are known as “Stiffs” and live in plain houses. The Dauntless live in a dark pit which leads to a tense atmosphere. The plot seems to keep you hanging over a building as you wait to be dropped. The mix of danger and emotion keeps the reader wanting more. In conclusion, Divergent is an excellent book for young adults and older.

Check the WRL catalog for Divergent.


Categories: Read This

Far Far Away, by Tom McNeal

Blogging for a Good Book - Mon, 2014-05-05 01:01

Christina from the library’s Outreach Services Division provides today’s review:

In the mood for a fairy tale? Far Far Away by Tom McNeal is YA fiction that fans of J.K. Rowling, Diana Wynne Jones, and Lemony Snicket will find familiar but entirely unique. From its spooky old style woodcut illustrations of baby-snatching skeletons, to its unusual narrator (the ghost of one of the brothers Grimm!) this fantasy adventure tale has light romance and clever humor mingled with a charming dark ambiance. Suitable for those who prefer their fantasy to be a pleasant dream, rather than a nightmare.

The eloquent and multilingual Grimm ghost haunts an oddball boy, nicknamed Moonbeam, who is the only one who can hear him. A bite of enchanted cake binds his feisty and beautiful classmate Ginger to their peculiar group. They are aided by the Grimm ghost to explore the ominous mysteries in their town, including disappearing persons, runaways and the rumored existence of an evil-minded power known as the Finder of Occasions.

Lovers of magical realism will enjoy this story of modern young people who deal with jerks, crushes, and school among otherworldly beings and a slew of riddles and puzzles.

If you long for the mood of a fairy tale, but want a novel you can sink your teeth into, this fantasy will take you there.

Check the WRL catalog for Far Far Away


That’s Mine! by Michel van Zeveren

Pied Piper Pics - Fri, 2014-05-02 01:01

The English adage, “Finders, Keepers” takes on a rather humorous new meaning in Michel van Zeveren’s book, That’s Mine!, when animals of varying sizes each try to lay claim to an unhatched egg.

The story opens with a little frog finding an egg and declaring, “Aha…that’s mine!” That is until other animals in the jungle appear, each one larger than last, and make that very same claim.

An argument and struggle over the egg quickly ensues until suddenly, with slap stick humor, the egg slips, is launched into the air and lands smack in the back of the head of a very large elephant. The animals are at first nervous about what is to come next. They quickly begin hemming and hawing when the cross elephant, now with a rather large bump on his head, demands to know, “Whose is this?”

Good question. Which animal is brave enough to answer the elephant and claim ownership of the egg? Will they each once more try to claim the egg or will they turn on one another? And just what is hiding in that egg?

Be sure to check out a copy and find out the hilarious conclusion. With expressive cartoonish characters to enhance the comedy and fun, this is a story that will leave you and your child rolling with laughter.

Check the WRL catalog for That’s Mine!


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

Ashen Winter, by Mike Mullin

Read This! - Fri, 2014-05-02 01:01

Jan shares this review:

A very important question for people who love to read is, can the sequel ever be as good as first book? And in this case the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’!

I blogged on Mike Mullin’s debut novel Ashfall previously, and I have been anticipating reading the sequel Ashen Winter ever since. In Ashfall a supervolcano erupted under Yellowstone National Park and sixteen year old Alex sets off on an odyssey from his home in Iowa to find his family in Illinois. The ash has destroyed the plants, killed the livestock (from breathing the ash), and poisoned the water. In Ashfall  some people are kind, and Alex meets Darla who will become the love of his life. Ten months on in Ashen Winter people’s desperation is growing. No summer came, possibly presaging the beginning of an unbelievably long and cold volcanic winter. Stored food is running out, and the last supplies of necessities we take for granted like antibiotics and gasoline are also running out. Alex struggles to stay true to the values he didn’t even know he had. In a world full of human cruelty and even cannibalism  he wants to save everyone who is innocent. Even his previously mild, spineless father resorts to violence leading Alex to think, “The disaster had warped the landscape of our minds – perhaps even more than it had altered the physical landscape.”

Ashen Winter is as dark as Ashfall and goes at the same breakneck pace. The problems of survival are just as intense, and the characters continue to change and grow in a believable way. I find some apocalyptic books, movies or TV series fascinating in the beginning as the characters deal with how to survive their disasters. Then too many of them descend into soap opera, where the story centers around who is hooking up with whom, rather than who will actually be able to survive to be able to hook up with anyone.

Like its predecessor, Ashen Winter is an apocalyptic read that is a good choice for both teens and adults. Try it if you enjoyed The Hunger Games or even less well known books like Monument 14.

Check the WRL catalog for Ashen Winter


Categories: Read This

The Impossible Knife of Memory, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Blogging for a Good Book - Fri, 2014-05-02 01:01

“Dad carried a war in his skull.”

“His soul is still bleeding. That’s a lot harder to fix than a busted-up leg.”

Hayley’s former soldier father has nightmares and rages. He drinks and he takes drugs. He can’t keep a job for more than a few days–all classic signs of PTSD.  He spent years dealing with his demons by staying constantly on the move as a long distance truck driver, with Hayley along being “unschooled.” Now they have settled in Hayley’s late grandmother’s house, and seventeen-year-old Hayley is attending high school for the first time.

This is a dramatic set up and The Impossible Knife of Memory lives up to it. Hayley has a strong voice–her depth and basic decency shine through until I was despairing at the traumas life threw at her. At high school she calls the teachers and the other kids “zombies”–lifeless apparitions with perfect exteriors who are only pretending to be human. Then she reconnects with Gracie, an old kindergarten classmate from when Hayley’s grandmother was alive. She also meets unique and funny Finn and starts to fall in love, but Hayley is terrified of trusting him. She slowly begins to learn that everyone carries their own burdens and might be able to help with hers.

Since Hayley is seventeen the war in Afghanistan has been running almost her entire life. Her earliest childhood memories are of seeing her father off to war, and welcoming him home. As her father’s physical and mental condition deteriorates she says about her early life, “My dad was a superhero who made the world safe” but she knows now that he himself is far from safe.

A heartrending but ultimately hopeful book, try The Impossible Knife of Memory if you read other wrenching teen novels like The Fault in Our Stars by John Green or if you’re interested in the effects of war on teens such as Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein. There are also details of military lifestyles like her family’s struggles to find someone to mind Hayley after her mother dies, and the camaraderie from her father’s old soldier friends.

Check the WRL catalog for The Impossible Knife of Memory.


Dark Enough to See the Stars in a Jamestown Sky, by Connie Lapallo

Blogging for a Good Book - Thu, 2014-05-01 01:01

Librarians get to see all sorts of things, but even for librarians it is unusual to have Thomas Jefferson in the library to check his email, unless of course, you are lucky enough to be located in the Historic Triangle. Our Williamsburg location is a block away from Colonial Williamsburg and we are a short drive from Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the current United States.

Based on the lives of Connie Lapallo’s ancestors, Dark Enough to See the Stars follows the life of Joan Phippen Peirce from her teen years in England to the new settlement of Jamestown. Orphaned young and with a sense of adventure, Joan Phippen set off with her husband and young daughter in a flotilla of seven ships. After a hurricane, only six ships arrived in Jamestown. Unfortunately, Joan’s husband and most of the supplies were on the seventh ship, the Sea Venture. Joan lived through the 1609-1610 Starving Time when only 60 out of nearly 500 Jamestown settlers survived the winter. Joan was a real person who didn’t leave many clues to her personality but there is no doubt that it took enormous courage to venture into and settle in an unknown and unknowable land. Author Connie Lapallo gives her a deep faith which sustained her through the many tragedies and struggles of her life.

Dark Enough to See the Stars in a Jamestown Sky is written in very short chapters with literary quotes heading each. This and the compelling and suspenseful story of survival make it a fast read. It can be distressing to think of the untimely and gruesome deaths of all these real people over four hundred years ago, but Lapallo has created a joyful portrait of a life well lived.

Lapallo says the book is based on research and records that remain from over 400 years ago and she includes many useful appendices, maps and notes. She creates a few fictitious minor characters but tries to base the main characters and their actions on what history says really happened. Acorns are listed in the historical record as a source of food during the Starving Time, so Connie Lapallo speculates that a thrifty and industrious housewife with knowledge of plants could have spent the months leading up to the winter collecting and preparing acorns against the winter ahead. The author and her daughters successfully made acorn flour to test this theory!

Dark Enough to See the Stars in a Jamestown Sky is a great book for local readers. I learned an enormous amount about the fascinating local history. It is also a good choice if you like historical fiction based on women’s lives like Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, by Geraldine Brooks, or The Orchardist, by Amanda Coplin.

Check the WRL catalog for Dark Enough to See the Stars in a Jamestown Sky.


I Am So Handsome by Mario Ramos, translated by Jean Anderson

Pied Piper Pics - Wed, 2014-04-30 01:01

In I Am So Handsome, with little humility and a whole lot of attitude, Mister Wolf sets out one morning for a stroll. Along the way he puts various fairytale characters in the uneasy position of answering his question, “Who’s the handsomest of all?”

What would you do?
Well, if you have the misfortune of being Little Red Ridding Hood or one of the Three Little Pigs, you won’t waste any time and quickly will agree that the Big Bad Wolf is, of course, by far the handsomest. Or risk getting eaten!

But wait! What happens when Mr. Wolf runs into a not so familiar character, say a baby dragon? A baby dragon that may have his own ideas of who is the handsomest and isn’t afraid to let Mr. Wolf know. You’ll be surprised to hear what the baby dragon thinks of Mr. Wolf’s question and indeed, so will Mr. Wolf.

The book features cartoonish characters and vivid colored illustrations. Discover the hilarious outcome to I Am So Handsome. And learn how Mister Wolf’s inflated ego is taken down by one unimpressed little dragon.

Check the WRL catalog for I Am So Handsome.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman

Read This! - Wed, 2014-04-30 01:01

Charlotte shares this review:

Forty years before this young adult fantasy opens, a truce ended a bloody conflict between human and dragon kingdoms. For the generation that has grown up in peace, dracomachia—the art of fighting dragons—has been forgotten and knights have been sent into exile. Despite old prejudices, lingering hatred between species, and the occasional street riot, nobody’s been burnt to a crisp in ages.

Well, a prince has been recently decapitated. In a suspiciously dragonish manner.

Seraphina Dombegh is assistant music master to the royal court, where the festivities marking the 40th anniversary of the truce place her in the thick of intrigue among the ruling family and visiting ambassadors. The celebrations must go on… even while Seraphina, with Lucian Kiggs, the captain of the Queen’s Guard, investigates signs that Goredd’s remaining heirs are also in danger. Unfortunately, Seraphina, having grown up with a heavy load of family secrets and parental disapproval, has learned to approach life through layers of disguise and deception, including a habit of lying that comes between her and the charming Kiggs… who’s engaged to someone else anyway.

Hartman’s contribution to this traditional fantasy setting is her entertaining take on dragon kind, highly intelligent but essentially other, gifted at higher math but with a Vulcan disdain for human emotions and the way that passions dictate human lives. “They’re nothing but feral file clerks,” complains one character, “they used to alphabetize the coins in their hoards.” Dragons can take human form, and the most entertaining characters are the ones who pass for human, but without really understanding what makes people tick. Dragons who become too human are policed by censors, and if they’re determined to be emotionally compromised, they may need to have their brains excised. The conflict between logic and art, left brain and right will be a familiar one for veterans of original Star Trek.

Seraphina has her own psychological complications: repeating visions of 17 figures, which she’s learned to control by a sort of lucid dreaming she calls “cognitive architecture.” As lives and the uneasy peace are threatened, the figures from her visions start to surface in real life, and her search for the remaining mystery characters is sure to continue in the sequel.

Check the WRL catalog for Seraphina


Categories: Read This

Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way: 18th Century Methods for Today’s Organic Gardener, by Wesley Greene

Blogging for a Good Book - Wed, 2014-04-30 01:01

If you are able to make the trip to Colonial Williamsburg (and do pop in and visit us at the Williamsburg Library if you do!) you will notice the beautiful gardens. Like everything in Colonial Williamsburg, they strive to make the gardens authentic to colonial times, which means lots of cottage vegetable gardens grown in old-fashioned organic ways. Whether you can visit us or not Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way is a great book for both gardeners and history buffs.

For gardeners Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way offers a wealth of practical advice and techniques, as the author points out, “many gardening tasks have spanned the centuries relatively unchanged”. Coaxing food from the earth has always required the same patience, diligence and skill.

The historically minded can learn about the past of vegetables, for example did you know that “The onion and its relatives–leeks, shallots, garlic, and chives–are among the most ancient and important vegetables known to humankind”? More practically for a modern gardener, it lists varieties of seeds used in 18th-century Virginia and if they are now unobtainable, it lists Heirloom substitutes. To learn how to make their gardens authentic, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation turned to gardening books written hundreds of years ago like Philip Miller’s The Gardener’s Dictionary from the 1750s. Information found in these works had to be adapted to suit local conditions, such as the heat in Virginia summers.

Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way is filled with stunning crisp photographs, both decorative images of bountiful garden produce and many showing gardening techniques. As a bonus, spot the colonial Williamsburg staff in their costumes as they work in the gardens – terribly hot in the summer in coastal Virginia’s hot and humid climate!

This book is an obvious choice for gardeners, especially those interested in organic vegetable production. It will also fascinate history buffs with its wealth of information about how people lived and grew their own food over two hundred years ago. If you are a local resident be sure to pop into the library and check out our signed copy.

Check the WRL catalog for Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way.


The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, by Deborah Blum

Blogging for a Good Book - Tue, 2014-04-29 01:01

Science isn’t just esoteric stuff done in a distant lab by detached and isolated scientists, rather it has everyday and real-life implications for us all. And in the case of The Poisoner’s Handbook, real death implications as well. In a time of numerous CSI television programs we blithely imagine that a forensics expert glances around a crime scene, swirls something in a test tube, and twenty minutes later announces that the butler did it, who then confesses to being a serial killer. This makes good TV but real forensics is much slower, less certain and more work. Forensics is also a lot newer than you might imagine. A hundred years ago in New York, arguably the world’s premier city, the police and medical staff  often had very little idea of what was killing people. Accidental poisoning was common because poisons were easy to acquire and almost impossible to detect in a body. Cyanide was common in cleaning supplies and pest control, with unsurprisingly fatal results! Poison was also an excellent (or more accurately dreadful) way to murder people because it was very hard to prove what caused death.

The subtitle of this book: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York sounds glamorous, but the book paints a portrait of a scary world where ignorance ruled, followed closely by corruption and hubris. The corruption of New York during prohibition was ranged against the dedication of scientists and doctors, notably Alexander Gettler and Charles Norris, the courageous and brilliant real-life heroes of our story.

Author Deborah Blum says she wanted to be a chemist until she set her hair on fire with a Bunsen burner. Her father was a scientist and mother had a collection of murder mysteries, so she wanted to combine them for a nonfiction scientific Agatha Christie and she succeeded remarkably well. Try The Poisoner’s Handbook for nonfiction with the characterization and suspense of a novel. It is a fascinating portrait of the historical intersection between science and society, likeThe Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson, or The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Bear in mind, this is not for the squeamish, as forensics are described in detail and poisoning and its aftermath are painted as so common that it is surprising that anyone survived at all.

PBS recognized the dramatic potential in this great book and made a documentary that was released in February, 2014. It is a great companion to the book with historic photographs of New York as well as our heroes Norris and Gettler.

Check the WRL catalog for The Poisoner’s Handbook.

Check the WRL catalog for the new documentary based on the book The Poisoner’s Handbook.


Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

Read This! - Mon, 2014-04-28 01:01

Michelle B. shares this review:

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein, is a unique epistolary novel which begins with the letters of Verity, an English spy being held captive in France by the Gestapo during World War II. Under duress, Verity is ordered to recount her role in the war effort through a series of letters which are consequently read by the Gestapo. She fiercely and with a great deal of cheek, writes about why she joined the war effort as well as her “sensational” friendship with fellow soldier and female pilot, Maddie. Verity’s courage and anger shines through these letters which range from tragically funny (Verity’s cover was blown when she looked the wrong way when crossing the road in Nazi occupied France) to solemn and poignant (Verity’s tales from the warfront). The more Verity writes, the more readers, and the Gestapo, get the feeling that there may be more to her story than she is telling.

An espionage story, Code Name Verity is a tightly plotted roller coaster
with the bonus of a fully realized portrayal of a strong female friendship,
something rather special when so much of popular Young Adult fiction
heavily focuses on romance. Elizabeth Wein is a master of detail and
everything from the mechanics of flight (Wein is a pilot herself) to the
incredible characterization of Maddie and Verity make the story feel alive.
This spy novel contains an immense amount of compelling humanity not
usually found in the genre, making Code Name Verity a potent combination
which will keep readers guessing as they are reading and stay with them
long after.

Check the WRL catalog for Code Name Verity.


Categories: Read This

The Easter Bunny’s Assistant by Jan Thomas

Pied Piper Pics - Mon, 2014-04-28 01:01

What happens when the Easter bunny takes on an assistant that just happens to be a skunk? A whole lot of fun and lots of giggles that’s what!

Jan Thomas has done it again with this comical new story that is perfect for the Easter holiday but stands on its own anytime of the year for a good laugh.

The Easter bunny enlists the help of a skunk in a “how to” demonstration on making beautiful Easter eggs. The only problem, Skunk is way too excited and, well, things get rather smelly when the Easter bunny tries to explain the process of making the eggs. What can the Easter bunny do? How will he ever explain each step involved in making Easter eggs if his assistant keeps interrupting him with his ‘excitement?” Get a copy and find out.

The illustrations are presented in bright pastel colors. The characters with their amusing expressions aid the story through to its hilarious conclusion.

Bonus: Though the story itself tells how to make Easter eggs, there is an additional set of instructions that are easier to follow at the end of the book. You and your child can enjoy an afternoon of fun making your own beautiful eggs.

Check the WRL catalog for The Easter Bunny’s Assistant.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics