say goodbye to the cuckooThe return of migrant birds from their wintering grounds in the tropics is one of the delights of America’s spring, as anyone will testify whose heart has leapt in April or May at the first liquid song of the woodthrush, or the first black-and-orange flash of the Baltimore oriole. But in recent years concern has grown that migrant birds may be declining, perhaps because of deforestation at their winter quarters in the Caribbean and in Central and South America.

In Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo, Michael McCarthy highlights for the first time the disappearance of these birds which, he points out, are a part of Europe’s distinctive cultural furniture, “as much as cathedrals, Latin, olive oil, or wine.” He shows how their loss would do devastating damage to the cultural inheritance of us all. (description from publisher)

every boy should have a manTrying to put into words how I feel about Preston L. Allen’s Every Boy Should Have a Man isn’t easy.  I keep trying to avoid calling the book weird — as not to turn away potential readers — while still imparting the distinct oddness of this novel.  I want to explain how unnerving the novel can be at times, while making sure that I don’t forgot to tell you that the book was also subtly funny and  wickedly smart.  Part science-fiction, part allegory, part fairy tale, and part scripture, Allen has created a work of fiction that isn’t easy to pin down.  Allen deftly employs irony, playing with the reader’s perception of humanity and challenging the way we interact with the earth.

Every Boy Should Have a Man takes place in a world in which Oafs keep “mans” as both pets and as potential food.  In this land, a poor boy Oaf owns three mans throughout his life; something that is typically only a privilege of the wealthy.  Spanning the lifetime of the boy Oaf (and a short time following), the book examines what it means to be civilized through a lens of a long list of divisive subjects including war, racism, global warming, and the ethics of domesticating animals for pets and livestock.  To say that the novel is unique is an understatement, but there is evidence of a wide range of influences from Jack and the Beanstalk and Gulliver’s Travels to Ursula K. Le Guin and Margaret Atwood.


October is a great time to get your house ready for winter. You know the drill — have your furnace checked, caulk up those drafty holes, clear out those gutters. But with heating bills sure to rise, it may also be time for an energy audit. In the Quad Cities, Mid-America supplies both gas and electric energy to most homes, but they also offer this service, called EnergyAdvantage Home Check. You do need to make an appointment, but they will come to your home and offer energy-saving suggestions. At my house, the person doing the energy audit not only gave us new lightbulbs and low-flow showerheads, he actually took the time to install them! I don’t know if this is standard service or not, but I was very impressed with this service.

In the meantime, if your looking for other ideas on how to save energy around your house, check out these new titles at the library:

Greening Your Home: Sustainable Options for Every System in Your House by Clayton Bennett. This slim paperback is loaded with ideas for changing your lifestyle, as well as for using new technology (such as low-flow faucets) to save time, energy and money.

50 Simple Steps to Save the Earth from Global Warming is another easy-read paperback with very practical tips. For example, Step #8 – Unplug your chargers. Did you know that 95% of the energy used by mobile phone chargers is wasted? I didn’t.

Energy Crossroads: a Burning Need to Change Course. This is a new DVD that, according to the cover jacket, “comprehensively covers the key aspects of the energy/environment/economy dilemma.”