Amber meeting Harry Potter of Harry and the Potters during the Eastern Ave Branch Library Opening DaySit back, curl up with a blanket, and hug a book–It’s time to reminisce about the library:

Five years ago, did you take a selfie with your favorite band, Harry and the Potters, at the Eastern Ave. Branch Library Opening Day celebration? Yup, that’s me!

Twenty years ago, did the children’s librarian know you by name and always have the newest Garfield book ready for you? I loved those books. Hmmm maybe I should check one out again…

Fifty years ago, how did you feel when you learned Davenport’s Carnegie Library would be torn down? I imagine that the Carnegie’s Reading Room was both glam and cozy.

We absolutely love when people share their favorite memories of the Davenport Public Library with us, and this week we hope you will share your favorite memory with everyone! This week is National Library Week and Davenport Public Library asks you to help us celebrate by sharing your favorite moment, photo, quote, feeling, book that reminds you of the awesomeness of your local library.

Hands holding up copies of aYes Please by Amy Poehler book and audiobookWe will be choosing two of our favorite memories posted between April 12-18, 2015 to win an autographed audiobook or book of Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please (provided by @harperaudio) and one kid’s memory to win a Jelly Belly Bean Machine. Post your memory and use the hashtags #DavenportReads #YesPlease so we can collect it (If you notice that we have not liked or favorited your post, it may not have appeared in our feed. You can always message us or email us directly at

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I am one of those people who understands history through art. Partly for the classic idea that “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but also because the concept of “this artist made this during this time while these things were happening” just somehow clicks with me. To me, art IS history, so I am always a bit baffled when I hear other people snicker or gripe at stories that come out about people who make heroic efforts to save a piece of artwork as if the idea that a person would put themselves in danger to save history is somehow silly. I am also one of those people who understands things by relating them to movies made in the 1980’s. And thanks to the Back to the Future Trilogy, those of us living in the twenty-first century should all now be fully aware of how saving history will also save our future.

But alas, earwax! The Back to the Future Trilogy did not exist during World War II! Can you imagine telling a Superior Officer in the military (who has no IDEA what Jan Van Eyck painted, nor what song Marty McFly sang after his parents’ first kiss) that he needs to set free a recently captured group of German Soldiers because a German Monk told you that they are the only men trained to keep a historical church from catching on fire from the bombs the Allies are still blasting at the city? Yeah, he may not take it that well…

Luckily, the small group of men and women assigned to the MFAA, the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Division, understood the importance of their job even when others did not, and were able to save the history (and thus, the culture, spirit and future) of Europe from total destruction. Their story, after being forgotten for many years, is finally receiving worldwide attention thanks to the wonderful book by Robert M. Edsel (with Bret Witter), The Monuments Men : Allied heroes, Nazi thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History and the new movie based on Edsel’s book, Monuments Men, directed by and starring George Clooney.

Led by George Stout, an art conservation pioneer from Iowa (and who Clooney based his fictional film character on–Learn more about George Stout here:, the MFAA members managed to protect historical world sites from unnecessary bombings, repair sites damaged due to necessary bombings, protect priceless cultural items from looting by both the Nazis and Allies, and track down and conduct emergency conservation efforts on millions of items stolen by the Nazis and return them to their rightful countries and owners, including those owned by Germany. And here is the super amazing part, although the MFAA would eventually include hundreds of members (still a very small amount compared to the millions who served during WWII), the Monuments Men numbered UNDER TEN MEMBERS during their most critical period to save all of the art in NORTHERN EUROPE (and unlike in the film, they were mostly working ALONE). As the brilliant Dr. Emmett Brown would say, “Great Scott!”

Robert Edsel’s book, The Monuments Men, as well as his companion books and the related documentary, The Rape of Europa, are must-sees for those interested in Art History, World History and Military History as well as anyone who likes a good treasure hunt around Europe.

I’m pretty sure that if a cute stranger offered to take me to a romantic European city for the day, I would probably say “No, but thank you. I’m just too awkward for that.” And I wouldn’t even fret about possibly missing out on an experience of a lifetime because, luckily, there are plenty of young adult romances that can satisfy my “but what would have happened?!” curiosity. Just One Day by Gayle Forman (and its companion book, Just One Year) is the perfect choice for armchair travel because the heroine just happens to be quite introverted herself, and thus, very relatable to us classic Librarian-types 😉

Just One Day begins with sensible, quiet Allyson feeling ready for her graduation trip around Europe with a teen tour group to be over so she can go home to the States. Yeah, that whining-about-being-in-Europe part isn’t that relatable to me, but granted her best friend has gotten a little bit wild/annoying, and the tour skipped over Paris–the one city Allyson wanted to see on the tour. But then she runs into a cute street actor who had flirted with her during his performance the night before…AND HE OFFERS TO TAKE HER TO PARIS! YES! YES! YES! So Allyson tells him her name is Lulu and hops on the train to Paris with him (and then promptly has several panic attacks on the train about him leaving her, killing her, making a fool of her, etc–this is actually the moment where I went from liking the book to LOVING the book). Lulu/Allyson and Willem spend an amazing day running around Paris and then live happily ever after. Swooooooon.

Well, until the next morning when Allyson wakes up alone in an empty Paris art studio.

With lots of tears and panic, Allyson finds her way back to London and her tour group and then back home to the United States. We then follow her through her first year of college as she learns to overcome her broken heart and embarrassment. After a long self-inflicted isolation, new friends help Allyson discover that she needs to revisit Paris and find Willem–partly because she believes that there is a mystery surrounding the morning Willem left her and partly because she needs to prove to herself that she is in control of her life.

Sorry, I can’t tell you if she finds Willem…BUT I will tell you that the companion book Just One Year tells the story of what happened to Willem during his year apart from Lulu. He does quite a bit more traveling…that is all I will say.

These two books are a must read for fans of Stephanie Perkins, John Green and Maureen Johnson and anyone else who likes a little independence and a little travel with their romances.

When I grow up I want to be a Lady Detective just like Miss Fisher—elegant, scrappy and clever (words that also describe my other favorite Lady Detective, Jessica Fletcher!) Phryne Fisher has been dancing around the book world for a while (see my review of the first in that series here: Phryne, Rhymes with Briney), but now we can actually see her shake her beaded tassels in a new gorgeously filmed television series by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, shown in the United States on PBS.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries begins just as Kerry Greenwood’s book series does, with the Honorable Phryne Fisher, played by the seductive Essie Davis, returning to 1920’s Melbourne after being away for a decade or so. While she was away in Europe, Miss Fisher had modeled nude for artists, partied with dancers, worked as WWI nurse, and suddenly came into a title and money. Now that she is returned, Phryne decides that her charm and intellect are perfectly suited to solving murder mysteries around her old hometown. She enlists the help of her gentle butler, her communist chauffeurs/handymen, and her new maid, Dot, who finds herself constantly struggling between good Catholic values and the not-quite-legal-or-virtuous things that Miss Fisher persuades her to do. And of course, the local Detective Inspector Jack Robinson does not find Phryne’s frequent interference in his work amusing (even if he does find her annoyingly companionable.) I loved every episode of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, but what most puts a sparkle in my eye is Phryne’s marvelous wardrobe! The silk kimonos! The slinky wide-legged pants! And the hats oh THE HATS!

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is so charming, fun and sexy while still addressing many historically controversial issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and terrorism—all while giving us a cracking good whodunit. I highly recommend this series to fans of Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, and those who love history and mysteries 😉

I require two things of a cookbook for me to check it out:

♥ There must be lots of photos.
♥ Those photos must be beautiful.

Checking out a cookbook is not the same thing as USING a cookbook. For me to actually use a cookbook, I require two additional things:

♥ Simple ingredients.
♥ Simple instructions.

Very, very few cookbooks meet these requirements (thus I am forced to make frozen pizza at least twice a week. Sigh. It is so difficult being a lazy cook with high cookbook standards). So when I discovered that Mary McCartney’s new cookbook, FOOD: Vegetarian Home Cooking, exceeded all of my requirements I just had to hug it. Yup, I hug that cookbook. On a regular basis. Because I love it. I really really love it.

For those of you who are not as obsessed with the McCartney family as I am, Mary McCartney is the daughter of Sir Paul McCartney and the late Linda McCartney, and thus grew up in arguably the most famous of vegetarian families. I was worried that Mary’s long history with vegetarian cooking (not particularly my favorite type of food) would result in complicated and unappealing fancy cuisine and thus dash my hopes that I would ever be able to comfortably tuck in if invited to sit at the McCartney supper table.

Upon opening the cookbook, I was first struck (and almost brought to tears) by Mary’s cozy photographs of lovely people and fresh food and how the photographs reminded me just enough of her mother, Linda, but were still very much the artist’s own. Wonderful and crisp.

Then I started looking at the recipes and I was like “HEY I CAN MAKE THESE!” I made a cold Quinoa salad, a Quinoa and white bean soup, granola bars, zucchini pasta, a coconut-pineapple smoothie and all were easy and successful. My favorite recipe was the hummus and hot pepper jam sandwich – So simple, right?! The recipes are delicious and appealing to even a non-Veggie lover like me. Mary McCartney managed to not only make a beautiful and delicious cookbook, but also to make me feel like a confident, capable cook. And that is why FOOD gets a frequent hug from me. You should probably hug it, too.

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth ClineIn Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, writer Elizabeth Cline manages to educate the reader on the current state of the worldwide garment industry and to make it a page-turner. I COULD NOT PUT THIS BOOK DOWN. Cline covers the history of America’s Department Stores, the complicated ethics of a global garment industry, a trip to China’s factories for an experiment in fashion manufacturing, the effect of cheap clothes on the secondhand stores and charitable causes, and the role of social media in the “fast fashion” environment–all while unintentionally evolving herself into a “slow fashion” activist.

This is not a see-how-I’m-better-than-you-because-I-only-wear-handsewn-fair-trade-organic-cotton manifesto, but rather a conversation with a super smart friend who’s motto is I-used-to-shop-mostly-at-Forever-21-and-then-I-learned-some-stuff-and-now-prefer-not-to-shop-there. In fact, one of my favorite parts of the book is when Cline admits that only a few years before she began researching the book by sifting through her closet of cheap clothes from H&M, Target & Forever 21, she had participated in protests against her college for using sweatshops to produce their merch. If you were to ask me “Hey, are you against sweatshops and unfair labor practices?” I would say “Duh. Of course.” But then I would sheepishly look down at my clothing and have absolutley no idea how or where anything was made. It takes a lot of work not to buy cheap fasthion, and only Cline’s complete honesty, curiosity, and empathy could produce a book that could convince me to shop (a little bit) less at Target.

I highly recommend Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline to nonfiction readers, fashionistas, and fans of the slow lifestyle movement.

I will say it right now: Romola Garai is the next Judi Dench. She was clever and charming in the BBC’s Emma, tragic in Atonement and lovely in I Capture the Castle, but it is her starring roll as Sugar in the BBC’s 4-part adaptation of Michael Faber‘s novel, The Crimson Petal and the White, that has devoted me to her as a fan for life. She is absolutely breathtaking and MESMERIZING as a shrewd Victorian prostitute who writes revenge slasher fiction featuring her “patrons” to amuse her friends and as a dream of a future life as a published author.

However, Sugar’s plan changes when a suppressed aristocrat seeks out her services after being cut-off from his wealthy father and repeatedly pushed away from his mentally ill wife. She quickly creates a mutually beneficial relationship with William Rackham, played by Chris O’Dowd (of IT Crowd, Bridesmaids, HBO’s Girls), and soon finds herself the invisible force behind his personal and financial successes. Eventually, Sugar finds herself entwined with the women of the Rackham family and her control over William’s affections begins to slip away.

Now for the warnings: This series features nudity and explicit content which, I’ll admit, took me off guard at first, yet felt very appropriate to the era and environment. What I really want to warn viewers about is how this miniseries made me feel. The depiction of the historical treatment of women mentally, socially, and sexually left me in very dark moods after each episode. The storylines following Mrs. Rackham and her illness were particularly difficult to watch. However, Sugar’s overall strength of spirit left me aggressively hopeful as the final scene faded into light.

I highly recommend The Crimson Petal and the White to adult fans of period films and miniseries and to those who enjoy dramas targeting the female experience in relationships such as HBO’s Girls.

~~Sigh~~ A windswept island, daring escapes from Nazis, British country estates, dancing with soldiers in London, writing Food Ministry brochures extolling the values of carrots to hungry British citizens and a funny little sister who bullies a young Princess Elizabeth at a aristocratic Girl Guides Meeting. The Montmaray Journals by Michelle Cooper (a series of three lovely books: A Brief History of Montmaray, The FitzOsbornes in Exile, and The FitzOsbornes at War) are those kind of books where the narrator feels so natural, so familiar that I often forget that the stories in the book didn’t actually happen to me. Sadly, the memories are not all pleasant. These books are about a teenager’s family evolving and trying to survive World War II, all with the weight of a small country on their shoulders. I had originally written “evolving and surviving World War II,” until I remembered the pages and pages of sobbing while reading The FizOsbornes at War. Don’t worry, there is a wonderful ending.

Montmaray is a (fictional) tiny island monarchy between England and Spain whose already small population was decimated during World War I, and there are only a few village families left living in the shadow of a romantic, crumbling castle when 16 year old Sophie begins keeping her journal in 1936. Oh yes, ROMANTIC, CRUMBLING CASTLE. Sophie is actually Princess Sophie of the FitzOsborne Royal Family– she is one of three Princesses of Montmaray (the others being her stunning, intellectual cousin, Princess Veronica, and her younger tomboy sister, Princess Henry) and also the younger sister of the future King of Montmaray, charming Prince Toby FitzOsborne. However, Sophie’s royal title does not correspond to a royal lifestyle, at least not while she is living on a remote island in a stripped bare castle under the rule of her mentally ill uncle. Their wealthy aunt is forever trying to get the girls to move away from Montmaray and become a part of British Society, but their loyalty to Montmaray keeps them grasping to its shores until they have no choice but to fall into the lap of luxury. And then, of course, the war begins and Sophie’s home seems lost forever.

It is no secret among people who know me that my favorite book is I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (I have written about it on the blog here and compared it to another fabulous book, The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets, here, and the Montmaray Journals shares much in common with Dodie Smith’s fantastic novel (which is pretty much the highest praise I will give a book!). Both stories are told in thoughtfully-written diary entries by quiet teenage girls in 1930’s and whose lives seem both beautifully ordinary and bohemian at the same time. Both girls fall in love with men named Simon. Both feel inferior to their prettier, outgoing relations. And yes, both live in ROMANTIC, CRUMBLING CASTLES!

P.S. I will just say, that for those of you who thought the end of I Capture the Castle was not a happy one (and I disagree with that! but now is not the place to discuss…), you will be very satisfied with the ending Sophie chooses for herself.

I have recently been hearing parents mention how their kids are no longer being taught cursive handwriting in school. GASP! ::fainting spell:: Although this educational shift horrified me at first, I had to admit that cursive’s practical benefit of speedy textual communication had long been eclipsed by the QWERTY keyboard. Luckily, as things often do, handwriting’s decreasing efficiency seems to correspond to a rising swagger for the beauty of calligraphy. I have collected a few items as evidence (available at your local library, of course) to support my case:

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming is perfect example of calligraphy swagger. I read A LOT of books about Amelia Earhart as a kid, but this recent kids’ nonfiction is so amazing that I cannot walk past it on the shelf without stopping and giving it a little hug. Part of my love is due to the fantastic, thrilling writing of Candace Fleming, but it is the book’s design, specifically the hand-lettered chapter titles, that really makes me go weak in the knees. I would like to frame and hang on my wall one page in particular– the opening page for the chapter titled “Vagabonding, Record Breaking and Romance: 1928 to 1935.” Glorious.

As one of the most star-reviewed graphic novels of 2011, Craig Thompson’s Habibi is an epic tale about relationships with people, religion, and text. The story, in addition to the printed pages, drips with intricate lettering:

“The healer wrote out magic squares and sacred texts on a wooden board. A mirrored bowl was filled with water, and the ink was washed into the bowl. I was asked to make a wish in the mirror, and drink the inky water.
Drink each of the letters
The closest one can get to the text
The body absorbs the message
The word becomes flesh”

The Illuminator and a Bible for the 21st Century is a fascinating documentary about the creation of the Saint John’s Bible–yup, the very Bible project displayed at our Davenport Public Library last summer (which I absolutely GEEKED out about). I originally saw this documentary about five years ago as a graduate student in the University of Iowa Center for the Book and it has stayed on the fringes of consciousness ever since. While hearing about the development and production of a such a massive cultural project happening during our time is in itself fully worth the viewing of this documentary, it is watching the brilliant artistry and craftsmenship of the head calligrapher, Donald Jackson, and his staff, which makes me want to dedicate my entire life to improving my handwriting.

There is something about the season of Autumn that makes me want to climb into a cave and paint pictures, you know? Maybe I’m feeling some ancient human safety feature that is trying to get me settled in a warm place before winter arrives. Or maybe I just think hermits and bats are cool. Most likely it is because I have seen the magical documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams: Humanity’s Lost Masterpiece, a Film by Werner Herzog on the fascinating Chauvet Cave paintings.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is the perfect mix of history, science and art that leaves the viewer feeling an intense awareness of humanity and our connections through time. The Chauvet Cave paintings were discovered in southern France in 1994 and many are believed to have been created over 30,000 years ago. Due to the conservation problems facing the nearby Lascaux cave paintings, the Chauvet caves have been locked down with authorities only giving very limited access to scientists and art historians. Herzog shot the film with only a 4-person crew who had to use all their equipment while standing single-file on the limited, narrow walkways and with very small allotments of time. Although this prevented any grandiose, unobstructed scenes or any carefully angled close-up shots, the moving shadows and uneven light give the paintings an unnerving movement similar to what we can imagine they would look like when lit by a torch thousands of years ago.

Surprisingly, the ancient paintings are not the only fascinating subjects of Herzog’s documentary. He also features many of the cave scientists and their varied research projects related to Chauvet. For example, by studying the animals portrayed in the cave paintings, a group of scientists now believe that the ancestors to modern lions did not have manes. The scientists themselves range from former circus performers to a perfume designer who actually SNIFFS OUT CAVES! Herzog manages to celebrate the modern technology used in the cave projects without losing the ancient hum surrounding Chauvet.

I highly recommend this film to anyone interested in documentaries about the humanities or those who like films that leave them feeling a little mysterious and a little bit magical afterwards.