africa's childMaria Nhambu’s memoir of growing up in an orphanage tucked remotely in the Usambara mountains of Tanzania is not for the faint of heart.  She is not shy about sharing candid details of what she remembers from her childhood as a half-caste girl (a descendant of an African mother and a European father) with no parents to claim as her own.

Though the story was hard for me to read at times, it was also impossible for me to put down. I found it painful to read about the emotional, physical, and sexual abuses rained down on her and her contemporaries. Yet, Nhambu’s indomitable spirit and unwavering focus on her goal of getting an education makes hers one of the most uplifting books I have read in a long time.

Though Nhambu now has over seventy years of experience in this world and has earned every bit of wisdom she possesses, the child self she shares with her readers was one bearing a wisdom way beyond her years. Her story reflects her heart: rare, strong, lovable…compelling. Please read Nhambu’s memoir and if you feel, like I did, that Africa’s Child will forever be a part of you then perhaps this world will become a better place to live, one heart at a time.

 

landlineLandline is Rainbow Rowell’s second trip into adult relationships, following the release of Attachments. Having read two of her young adult books, I decided to give Landline a try, not knowing what I was getting myself into.

Landline begins by introducing readers to Georgie McCool. Georgie is a writer for a popular television sitcom. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Neal, and their two young daughters. On the outside, it looks like she has it all, but inside, Georgie knows that her marriage is in trouble. It’s not recent trouble, but something that seems to have been brewing under the surface for a long time.

Two days before she is supposed to leave with Neal and the kids to head to Omaha for Christmas, Georgie and her writing partner find themselves under a pile of work that has to be completed as soon as possible. As a result, she is unable to head to Omaha for Christmas, something she knows will anger Neal. He is upset, but instead of the family staying in Los Angeles with her, Neal packs up the kids and heads to Omaha anyway. This makes Georgie worry if she has finally done the one thing that will make her marriage break apart. Is her marriage broken? Has she ruined it?

Desperate to fix things, Georgie begins calling Neal. She never seems to be able to get a hold of him on his cell phone and her phone is always dead. Georgie digs a rotary phone out of her childhood bedroom’s closet and uses it to call Neal at his parents’ house. Their conversation is slightly off-kilter though and bothers Georgie. When she realizes why, she just can’t believe it. Georgie has found a way to talk to a past Neal. What she chooses to do with this will determine what happens in all of their lives.


This book is available in the following formats:

sharp objectsSharp Objects was Gillian Flynn’s literary debut in 2006, followed after with Dark Places in 2009, Gone Girl in 2012, and The Grownup in 2014. Flynn’s first three works are all suspenseful, dark books full of thrilling chases, tragedies, secrets, and lies. I was introduced to Gillian Flynn through Gone Girl and immediately dived into her other books.

In Sharp Objects, Camille Preaker is working as a journalist for a second-rate newspaper, the Daily Post, in Chicago when her boss, Frank Curry, gives her a new assignment. Camille is to head to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri to cover the murder of one young girl and the kidnapping of another. Camille soon finds herself back in Wind Gap for the first time in eight years, working on her career-boosting serial-killer-in-the-making article.

In this psychological thriller, Camille struggles to break through small-town barriers to find the truth about what happened to those two girls. Once the body of the second girl is found, Camille finds herself swept into the story amidst all the rumors flying through town about who committed these vile acts. These murders are especially hard for Camille and her mother, as her younger sister died when she was 10 of a mysterious illness. Local police call on the help of a profiler from Kansas City, MO and Camille works closely with him to discover Wind Gap’s secrets.

Camille has secrets of her own. She comes from a dysfunctional family and one of the things she turned to to cope was self-mutilation. She was once institutionalized for this; her body covered in scars, words littering every surface of skin. Her trip back to Wind Gap forces her to relive her disturbed childhood, digging into old family secrets and things simmering under the surface. This book is truly suspenseful, leaving readers guessing about the murderer and the truth those simmering secrets until the very end.


This book is also available in the following formats:

how to talkIf you have ever felt like the words you speak are falling on deaf ears, you may want to check out How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

The book is addressed to parents, mostly, but I have found the suggestions presented are useful in many other contexts, too. Teachers will no doubt find them useful, as well as anyone who wants to work on their communication skills or has ever had to deal with difficult people.

The authors learned many of their principles of effective communication from their teacher, Dr. Haim Ginnott, of Columbia University. They went on to hone their approach over many years through their experiences as parents and teachers.

The following principles are taken from Dr. Ginnott’s approach:

  • Never deny or ignore a [person’s] feelings.
  • Only behavior is treated as unacceptable, not the [person].
  • Depersonalize negative interactions by mentioning only the problem. “I see a [broken lightbulb].”
  • Attach rules to things, e.g., “[People] are not for hitting.”
  • Dependence breeds hostility. Let [people] do for themselves what they can.
  • Limit criticism to a specific event—don’t say “never”, “always”, as in: “You never listen,” “You always manage to break things”, etc.
  • Refrain from using words that you would not want [anyone] to repeat.
  • Ignore irrelevant behavior.

The book presents these ideas using amusing vignettes of common scenarios and how best to handle them. If you like this book, you may also be interested in the following by the same authors:

Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too  

Liberated Parents, Liberated Children

Between Brothers & Sisters: A Celebration of Life’s Most Enduring Relationship

How to Talk So Teens Will Listen & Listen So Teens Will Talk 

lets sew togetherDon’t just sew for your kids. Sew with them!

Simple sewing techniques make craft time fun for kids and grown-ups alike in Let’s Sew Teogether, with ideas for vintage-inspired clothes, accessories, quirky home decor, cute toys, and sweet gifts designed by the mum behind the popular parenting and craft blog Cakies.

Rubyellen Bratcher has invented 30 simple projects that encourage families to spend more time together through DIY activities. This mum of four learned how to sew at her local fabric shop, but soon found that her daughters were her greatest source of inspiration. Documenting her family’s daily life and DIY adventures online, Rubyellen’s blog, Cakies, has steadily grown into a destination for parents and crafters of all ages. In her first book, she offers 30 projects for kids and grown-ups to make together, including a handpainted skirt, scribbled placemats, a robot friend, easy felt party garlands, overstuffed dollhouse pillows, a gorgeous world-map quilt, and much more. Each chapter also includes no-sew projects, educational activities, play ideas, and reading suggestions to encourage imagination and learning. (description from publisher)

tinkerlabKids are natural tinkerers. They experiment, explore, test, and play, and they learn a great deal about problem-solving through questions and hands-on experiments. They don’t see lines between disciplines; rather, they notice interesting materials and ideas that are worth exploring.

Tinkerlab is about creative experiments, in all fields, that help kids explore the world. Children gravitate toward sensory experiences (playing with slime), figuring out how things work (taking toys apart), and testing the limits of materials (mixing a tray of paint together until it makes a solid mass of brown). They’re not limited by their imaginations, and a wooden spoon can become a magic wand as quickly as a bag of pom-poms can become a hot bowl of soup.

This book is about helping parents and teachers of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers understand and tap into this natural energy with engaging, kid-tested, easy-to-implement projects that value process over product. The creative experiments shared in this book foster curiosity, promote creative and critical thinking, and encourage tinkering-mindsets that are important to children growing up in a world that values independent thinking. In addition to offering a host of activities that parents and teachers can put to use right away, this book also includes a buffet of recipes (magic potions, different kinds of play dough, silly putty, and homemade butter) and a detailed list of materials to include in the art pantry. (description from publisher)

One of our own just had her first baby and in honor of the arrival of the newest Davenport Library patron, here is a list of some of our latest books on childbirth, babies and raising children.

dreambirthDreamBirth by Catherine Shainberg – Bringing a new life into the world is more than a biological process-it is the most profound act of creativity in the human experience.  With DreamBirth, this leading imagery expert offers practical exercises and guidance for harnessing our innate creative power throughout all four phases of childbirth-conception, pregnancy, labor, and post-partum care.

what to feed your babyWhat to Feed Your Baby by Stan Cohen – In this book, Dr. Stanley Cohen, a pediatric gastroenterologist and nutritionist with longstanding interest in infant nutrition, provides a practical and pragmatic approach to a major concern for new mothers. The author’s innovative, cost-sensitive methods can save both new and seasoned parents hundreds to thousands of dollars yearly and improve their families’ nutrition at the same time.

bumpologyBumpology by Linda Geddes – The moment she discovers she’s pregnant, every woman suddenly has a million questions about the life that’s developing inside her. In Bumpology , Geddes discusses the latest research on every topic that expectant parents encounter, from first pregnancy symptoms to pregnancy diet, the right birth plan, and a baby’s first year.

 

parenting beyondParenting Beyond Pink and Blue by Christia Brown – A guide that helps parents focus on their children’s unique strengths and inclinations rather than on gendered stereotypes to more effectively bring out the best in their individual children. When parents place less emphasis on gender, children are free to flourish in activities and ways that are authentic to them. Modern parents want to raise their children as unique individuals; Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue helps them break out of the restrictive pink or blue box.

artful parent2The Artful Parent by Jean Van’t Hul – Bring out your children’s creativity and imagination with more than 60 kids’ art activities. Art making is a wonderfully fun way for young children to tap into their imagination, deepen their creativity, and explore new materials, all while strengthening their fine motor skills and developing self-confidence.

 

Slesleepep: What Every Parent Needs to Know by Rachel Moon – Sooner or later, most parents face challenges at bedtime. From infants and toddlers, to school-age kids and adolescents, sleeptime problems can affect everyone in the family. And no matter what your child’s difficulty may be – getting to sleep, staying asleep, bed-wetting, fears or nightmares – it’s never too late to take steps to correct it.

baby bootiesBaby Booties and Slippers by Susie Johns – A new baby or toddler is the perfect excuse to get creative and what could be a more delightful gift than an adorable handmade pair of booties or slippers? This cute collection of 30 projects is packed full of gorgeous designs. From newborns to toddlers, there’s plenty here to keep those precious tiny toes warm in style, whether you want to make delicate and classic booties or funky themed slippers.

mama docMama Doc Medicine by Wendy Sue Swanson – Pediatrician, mother and blogger Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson helps decipher today’s conflicting medical opinions, offers helpful online resources, and shares what she’s learned over many years from her patients, friends and family in this enlightening guide to parenting. Using Dr. Swanson’s experience as a mother and physician, this book provides simple answers to the “how,” “what,” “why,” and “who” questions of parenting.

Good luck with your own little Storm-a-geddon Amber! You’re going to be an awesome Mom!

met nijinsky

When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky by Lauren Stringer: This is the story of how the famous composer, Stravinsky, and the famous dancer, Nijinsky, collaborated to create a performance of Stravinsky’s work that was so shockingly avant-garde that it caused a riot in the streets of Paris.* Can you imagine a ballet so shocking that it caused fistfights and screaming matches across the aisles of a sophisticated French theater in 1913? Astounding!

This book is to be read with “The Rite of Spring” playing in the background or not at all – the illustrations complement the music in a way that’s truly special. It’s so necessary to really enjoying the book that I’m a little mad it doesn’t include a CD, but of course you can always get the music independently from the library – whether you want it on CD or if you want to download it directly from Freegal!

when stravinsky“The Rite of Spring” is the music playing during the death-of-the-dinosaurs segment in Disney’s Fantasia, or as my childhood self knew it, “one of the scary parts!” This is powerful music, and accompanied by powerful, beautiful illustrations, this book is one to check out.

 *Please note: the library cannot be held responsible for any damage done to your home or car by riots this book/music may cause.

wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio: This book came into my life like a freight train of emotion and steamrolled over everything else I was doing. Auggie is starting fifth grade after being homeschooled for the previous five years: he has extreme facial deformities that make going out in public an almost unbearable trial. Everywhere he goes, people stare at him and whisper to each other. Auggie almost always notices, and wants so very much just to be normal. Inside, he’s as normal as any bright ten year old can be – he adores Star Wars, he likes to play Halo, he’s read all the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, and Halloween is his favorite holiday (since everyone is wearing a mask, he can too, and goes around just like a truly normal kid).

But Wonder isn’t just about Auggie, though he’s the main character. This is one of the few children’s novels I’ve seen that uses more than one narrator, and it’s surprisingly effective. Palacio doesn’t get carried away trying to make each narrator sound distinct (which would complicate matters for young readers): she uses a similar voice for each of the six viewpoint characters, letting their experiences and their emotions differentiate between them rather than her writing style.

This is a happy-sad book. Some moments will stab at you and make you weep, but overall you’ll feel rewarded and uplifted and most of all lucky: lucky to have met August, a character of such everyday bravery that you won’t soon forget him, lucky not to have the cascade of medical afflictions that have made him so remarkable, and lucky to have this beautiful book as a reminder to always be a little more kind than is necessary.

If you think children’s literature isn’t worthy of discussion, pick up one of these books and prepare to eat your words. These books are not just beautiful, simple, cute stories for children: they have big ideas, big hearts, and important messages to teach readers of all ages. Whether you have a little one to share them with or not, I highly recommend all of them.

oliverOliver by Birgitta Sif: gorgeous, rich, layered illustrations in muted earth tones and fluid character lines that suggest life and movement – brava. So beautifully done, and each page has so much going on; you can follow the unwritten story of the mouse on each page, and careful readers will see that many characters turn up over and over (besides Oliver, of course). Olivia is there all along, living her life parallel to Oliver’s; you can see that they will become best friends. So precious and wonderful.

 

anna the bookbinderAnna the Bookbinder, by Andrea Cheng and Ted Rand: A fantastic picture book! Anna’s father is a bookbinder; she’s helped him in the shop her whole life, and she knows the process very well. When her father is called away from work, Anna steps in to complete an important order. It’s odd to see these historical books where children and parents are coworkers as well as family members, since it’s so unusual now. Despite this book’s happy ending, I found myself wondering if Anna would be able to go to school, to travel, to marry for love – or if her father’s need of help in the bookshop would keep her tied to home forever. Maybe I’m thinking about it too much. 

miss mooreMiss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough and Debby Atwell: Oh Anne Carroll Moore! How I wish I were you. This book – the story of how Miss Moore created the Children’s Library space as we know it today – will make you thankful for children’s libraries. Miss Moore blazes her own trail, she has agency and verve and it’s just so satisfying reading about her successes! Since this is a children’s book, it is biased towards the positive, which made me wonder what Anne’s life was really like, and whether she ever wanted to give up, and what she dreamed of doing but couldn’t finish, and who were the intractable powers-that-be that she overthrew to make her dreams a reality for children everywhere? (It also really, really made me want to time-travel to the opening of the NYPL. Where’s my tardis?)

Rabbityness by Jo Empson: because neon paint splatters. And because of the word ‘rabbityness.’ And because this is a book that doesn’t pretend bad things don’t happen, it’s one that acknowledges that good & bad and old & new change in relation to each other all the time; and one person (or rabbit) can have a big impact.
Rabbityness