July 2013 Archives

Villard Square Reads

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Family members and murder complicate wedding plans for Joan, the mother of the bride, in Her Brother's Keeper, Sara Hoskinson Frommer's seventh small-town Indiana Joan Spencer mystery.

Joan, the part-time manager of the Oliver Civic Symphony in Oliver, Ind., is busy preparing for her daughter's wedding when her ex-con brother Dave who has not been heard from in years arrives earlier than expected for the big event. Joan has a lot more to worry about after her policeman husband, Fred, rushes to a local B&B in response to a 911 call and finds his mother, Helga, whose mind is failing fast, brandishing a bloody knife in the B&B's kitchen. At Helga's feet lies a dead man. Helga isn't the killer, but she could be the key witness.

Although I figured out the murderer's identity before the end, this book is filled with twists and turns to keep you guessing. A good story for those looking for a light mystery and a quick read.

Marlene @ Villard Square

Villard Square Reads

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We recently had an addition to our family - we've adopted a puppy! One of the many great resources we found at the library was The Perfect Puppy: How to Raise a Well-Behaved Dog. Gwen Bailey's book is a great manual for first-time dog owners (and experienced ones, too) both before and after you bring home your new best friend. From tips on how to choose the right dog for you to how to handle problem behaviors to housebreaking and other training, Bailey gives great, realistic advice on how to handle situations with your dog and relate to him in a positive, effective way. It's a great tool to help you start off on the right foot with your puppy, and the abundant photos of puppies round out this adorable guide.

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The 4-H Guide to Dog Training & Dog Tricks by Tammie Rogers is another helpful book for dog owners hoping to teach their dogs good manners and behavior. Covering the basics of training and supplies such as leashes and collars, as well as more advanced tricks and commands, this guide is great for both people who want to start at the beginning, and those who want become more involved with dog training competitions. Rogers offers alternative training methods for dogs who may learn tricks differently, and explains some more complex, service dog tricks that readers may not have considered (want to teach your dog to put your laundry in the hamper? It's in here!).

Jessie @ Villard Square

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

relish.jpegLike a youthful, artistic Proust, Lucy Knisley's memory is strongly tied to her sense of taste. Through these memories, each with their own unique tastes and stories, Knisley crafts a wonderful illustrated memoir of a youth, growth, coming of age and beyond in Relish: My Life in the Kitchen.

From being a small child in New York City, to the shift of living in rural upstate New York, to trips into Mexico and France, each of these events is told with a charming, cartoon visual style in vibrant color. Punctuating each of these stories (which are equal parts delightful and poignant) is a recipe that closes each chapter, again illustrated with Knisley's warm cartoon style. You'd never guess that cartoon food would look so delicious, but somehow she pulls it off!

Don't let the fact we filed this book in the Young Adult section fool you, this is a great read for all ages. Just make sure not to read on an empty stomach; the book will definitely leave you craving some delicious food.

Tim @ Central

An Echo Through the Snow by Andrea Thalasinos

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Dog lovers, and animal lovers in general, will enjoy An Echo Through the Snow. Andrea Thalasinos tells the story of Rosalie, a young woman trying to fit in but having a hard time doing so until one night she takes a risk that transforms her life.

Rescuing a severely malnurished husky from imminent death at the hands of a careless junkyard owner, Rosalie soon finds herself thrust into the life of dog sled racing. Her first ride is "more exhilarating than any amusement park ride." Suddenly, it seems her life has purpose and Rosalie is more content than she's ever been.

This book also explores the dogs' roots back to the Chukchi people who lived in Uelen along the Bering Strait through the fictional person of Jeaantaa, another woman who risked everything, including her own life, to save the Guardians, the dogs sacred to the Chukchi people. Rosalie has a mysterious connection to Jeaantaa, and there is also a connection between Rosalie's dogs and the Guardians.

An Echo Through the Snow primarily takes part in Bayfield, Wisconsin. Thalasinos has an engaging way of drawing you into Rosalie's life, and into the personalities of the dogs. I often found myself smiling at the dogs' behavior. After reading the book, I think you will have, like me, a gnawing desire to witness first hand an actual dog sled race.

Mary S @ Zablocki

Sci-Fi & Fantasy Fridays

vn.jpgAmy's entire life changes at her kindergarten graduation. Her erstwhile absentee grandmother gatecrashes the ceremony, wreaking havoc and violence. When the safety of Amy's mother is then threatened, young Amy does the only thing she can think to do; she vomits acid all over her grandmother and devours the remains whole.

Even with the caveat that both Amy and her grandmother are robots, it's a pretty crazy way to start a book, and the craziness doesn't die down there. What unfolds in Madeline Ashby's vN is a bizarre tale of a robot on the run from a government that would turn her into scrap metal because of her one little flaw: as opposed to all other robots, Amy can hurt humans without her robo-brain shutting down. Joined in her journey by a sarcastic fellow robot Javier and his baby bot Junior, Amy finds herself travelling all across the country both in search of peace, and answers to the question about why she's so different from the other robots.

This is pulp sci-fi with a heavy dose of anime influences, so if you like books with robot cannibalism, pregnant mechanical men, and plots where at every turn the characters end up going from the frying pan right into the fire, you'll definitely find something to like in vN. While not quite to the level of excellence as the Asimov and Philip K. Dick classics that Ashby pays homage to, the book is a fun little adrenaline romp.

Tim @ Central

The Dark by Lemony Snicket

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The Dark is the story of Laszlo, who is quite afraid of the dark. The dark lives in his house, in the basement, where it belongs. Laszlo greets the dark every morning in the basement hoping that by visiting the dark, it would never visit him in his room. Of course all it takes is a burnt out bulb for the dark to visit, invited or not.

The illustrations by Jon Klassen are astonishing. His stock has risen considerably in 2013, and with good reason: he was the author of the Caldecott Medal-winning This Is Not My Hat and the illustrator of the Caldecott Honor-winning Extra Yarn. The images in this book really stand out - clean lines, textural colors, and beautifully designed spaces - but the most important and most extraordinary part of the illustrations is the negative space. Klassen uses the changing light as the sun sets, ambient light spilling from other rooms, and the beam of Laszlo's flashlight to illuminate what is seen, but also to contrast against ever-present lurking dark. The dark isn't a scary villain; it is a necessary foil to the light.

In an interview with NPR, Lemony Snicket likened writing the book to being on a lifeboat: he had to keep jettisoning words in order to keep the text from being redundant. Words are very important in Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events books, and I tend to think of him as quite verbose (which here means using quite a lot of words when only one might do, although more words can be nice as well). This text uses simple motifs that echo the clarity of the images and gently nudge forward like a hesitant little kid. The final book is stark and minimal: it is a tender little story about a boy and his fear. He doesn't conquer the dark in the heroic, majestic, storybook sense; he just talks to it, follows it, and then isn't bothered by it.

Extra bonus: if you have read and enjoyed Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back, I definitely recommend a little slideshow he did for the Guardian called "How to draw... a bear thinking about something."

Allie @ Central

Edible Milwaukee - Premiere Issue!

ediblemilwaukee.jpgEver wanted a magazine all about local food, from its production, to its distribution, and especially its consumption? Well it turns out you're not alone. Edible Milwaukee is the latest greatest local publication all about food. Part of a national network of Edible Communities publications (each locally owned and oriented), this magazine has just had its debut issue, and wow is it great! Stuffed full of great stories about local sausage shops, wineries, the history of Milwaukee frozen custard and more, you're bound to find something in the magazine to pique your interest and your appetite. While you can find a copy at a multitude of area businesses, you can also find it at your local neighborhood library, along with all sorts of great materials on cooking, cultivating, and chomping down on your own culinary exploits. So stop in today, check out the magazine, and maybe check out a few books or DVDs to take home with you, too.

Tim @ Central

Villard Square Reads

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Nothing Gold Can Stay by Ron Rash contains short stories that have taken place in one location, Appalachia, but in many different time periods. A wide variety of characters go through many different challenges; in "The Trusty," a convict sent to fetch water for the chain gang tries to convince a farmer's young wife to help him escape. There's also "Where the Map Ends," in which two runaway slaves head into the mountains, where there are many Lincoln supporters. The farm where they find shelter belongs to a man on the brink of madness, a result of his wife's suicide. While the farmer helps the older slave, he has a much different end in mind for his young companion. "The Magic Bus," a '60s story in which a naïve country teenager has her disastrous first encounter with hippies, and "A Servant of History" are also notable entries within this collection.

Kelly @ Villard Square

Whatcha Readin' @ Capitol & Mill Road

Ever wonder what the library staff are reading? Here's a snapshot of what's currently being read by workers at the Capitol and Mill Road branches:

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Lynn is reading The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau and Flat Water Tuesday by Ron Irwin

Enid is reading Her: A Memoir by Christa Parravani and is listening to Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

Deidre is reading Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick


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Casey is reading The Complete Book of Home Preserving: 400 Delicious and Creative Recipes for Today edited by Judi Kingry & Lauren Devine, Tarnished and Torn by Juliet Blackwell and World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

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Liz is reading Soulless by Gail Carriger

Kim is reading All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg

Carl is reading You: A Novel by Austin Grossman

Brandis is reading The Frugal Woman's Guide to a Rich Life edited by Stacia Ragolia

Watch for future lists of what the staff at the branch locations are reading!

Building Stories by Chris Ware

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Chris Ware's Building Stories earned four Eisner Awards at the 2013 Comic-Con International in San Diego for best writer/artist, new graphic album, publication design and lettering -- more than any other publication in its category.

Ware's 260 page story consists of 14 variously sized, formatted, and bound pieces including traditionally bound books, small and large pamphlets, some folded like an accordion, and loose pages all presented together in a large box that has additional scenes printed on it. Each colorful scene is meticulously composed and worded in a completely relatable fashion. The individual pieces in this set can be read as a complete story, or as standalone short stories, about the daily lives of a few tenants who reside in an imaginary, but eerily realistic, Chicago apartment building living their ordinary everyday life.

Building Stories is only available as a reference item and can only be viewed in person. It cannot be checked out. Currently you can enjoy this beautiful book at the Central and Zablocki libraries.

Valerie @ Central

Pandora's Lunchbox by Melanie Warner

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"We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons."

--Alfred E. Newman






From blueberry muffins without blueberries to ice cream without cream, parent and former New York Times reporter Melanie Warner traces how the food we eat has changed since Upton Sinclair's 1906 stomach-turning novel about the Chicago Stockyard, The Jungle, in her engrossing and occasionally gross Pandora's Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal.

The food processing breakthroughs of the past century has shortened food prep time for today's time-starved lifestyles, but vastly outstripped our bodies' ability to adapt to processed foods. She not only explains the chemical and mechanical process of how corn, soybean oil and many other ingredients have been refined to become part of many of the foods we eat, but shines a light on Harvey W. Wiley, a forgotten chemist, who was the driving force behind the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act, which empowered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to crack down on food companies putting rotting apples in strawberry and raspberry jams, bulking up bread with sawdust and preserving tomatoes with salicylic acid. He later helped develop the Good Housekeeping Seal.

Our grocery stores have fresh meat and produce that is more affordable than processed food by the ounce. Warner believes this can lead to better balance between real and processed foods in our meals. She points to Darcy Struckmeier's family. The family decided to stop eating processed foods as a 10-day experiment. Cameron's listlessness and stomach complaints ended ("I feel like I've been lifted from a fog"), Emma's constipation disappeared and Shawn has a lot less heartburn. Their experiment is now their daily diet.

Van Lingle Mungo @ Central


Sci-Fi & Fantasy Fridays

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a small book, but only in terms of the number of pages. Told largely through the voice of a child, the story that Neil Gaiman packs into his first novel for adults since the publication of Anansi Boys in 2005 is complex, but not difficult. It is magical, terrifying, nostalgic, and heartbreaking all at once. The main character (never named) is first introduced to us as a middle-aged man returning to his childhood home for a funeral. When he finds himself driving to the Hempstock farmhouse at the end of his street, memories of his seventh summer come flooding back - the summer he met Lettie Hempstock, an unusual girl utterly convinced that her backyard pond was an ocean.

The narrator is a seven-year-old boy growing up in England in the 1960s. His family has fallen on difficult times, and his parents decide that in order to help make ends meet, they must rent out the boy's bedroom to a series of boarders, and he will have to move into his older sister's bedroom. One particular boarder commits suicide in the family's stolen car, which sets in motion a chain of magical and terrible events which change the lives of everyone involved forever.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a fairy tale written for adults, complete with magic and monsters. It could only have been written by Neil Gaiman, and is definitely worth an 8-year wait.

Jessie @ Villard Square

Villard Square Reads

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When her young nanny dies of poisoned chocolates meant for her, magazine editor Cat Jones enlists the help of freelance crime writer Bailey Weggins in If Looks Could Kill. The story is set in Manhattan where the main characters work together at "Gloss Magazine." Kate White (former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan) gives the reader a great inside look at both the magazine and the fashion industries.

This is the first of the Bailey Weggins series; one critic describes it as "Nancy Drew meets Sex and The City" and I fully agree. Overall, it's an easy read and the main character is interesting and easy to relate to.

Marlene @ Villard Square

Villard Square Reads

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You won't find his name in many history books. However, Frederick Thomas is a colossal figure. The Black Russian by Vladimir Alexandrov details Thomas's journey from Mississippi to Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. A wonderful tale unfolds for the reader through Frederick's fantastical journey through Europe, his accumulation of wealth in Russia, financial ruin, personal setbacks, and exile. World events, such as the Bolshevik revolution, are chronicled and give the reader many things to ponder over, such as race, class, and the power of one man's self-determination.

Michelle @ Villard Square


Villard Square Reads

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Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty?: And Other Notorious Nursery Tale Mysteries by David Levinthal with illustrations by John Nickle is a children's book that can be enjoyed by kids of all ages, i.e. adults.

The book is a cross between the old Dragnet series and the Hoodwink movies. Officer Binky, a frog, of the Pinecone division investigates crimes such as; a break-in at the Bears house, an explosion involving a beanstalk, and of course finding out who pushed Humpty Dumpty. I couldn't put the book down and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Deborah S @ Villard Square

Pound Foolish by Helaine Olen

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How should I invest my money? How do I pay off debt? How much money should I be saving? These and other financial questions are ones we all deal with at some point. Not sure what to do? The personal finance industry is here to help! This multibillion dollar business, with its own celebrities, books, seminars and videos, will be more than happy to tell you what you should do with your dough (the first thing being giving it to them.) Journalist Helaine Olen takes a look behind the scenes of this industry in her book Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry. In it, she turns a critical eye on these self-styled gurus of personal finance and exposes their real motives. She is unafraid to take on the biggest names in the field and pick apart what they preach. Before you send off a check to that guy on late-night TV promising you untold riches in real estate, spend a little time with this book.

Brett @ Central


A Duo of Unique Graphic Novels

movingpictures.jpegMoving Pictures is a story about the value we place on things, whether it is pieces of art, relationships, or even people. Set in Vichy France, it follows a Canadian woman named Ila who works in a museum in Paris 'misplacing' pieces of art to prevent the Nazis from stealing them away to Germany. Trapped in this life, she ends up in a relationship with one of the German officials in charge of the art relocation, and things unfold from there. Delicately crafted with words by Kathryn Immonen and gorgeous illustrations by Stuart Immonen, this little book began life as a webcomic by the husband-wife team while they worked on other projects. Definitely worth a look.

eventhegiants.jpegJesse Jacobs' Even the Giants is an odd (yet heartfelt and touching) little book, telling an almost wordless tale about giant arctic creatures, love, and loneliness in pictures of only white, black, and blue. Interspersed with this story are single-page interludes of 'One Million Mouths', often trippy and surrealistic vignettes with the occasional wicked punchline. This is a great little book, experimenting in the sort of stories you can tell in the medium, and is definitely something to check out.

Tim @ Central

Sci-Fi & Fantasy Fridays

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Jo Walton's Tooth and Claw is an intimate and domestic story about one family's struggles to find happiness and security, featuring job troubles, disputes between in-laws, and a few sweet romances. It has been compared to the Victorian novels of Anthony Trollope.

It is, at the same time, a story about cannibalistic dragons.

Tooth and Claw takes place in Tiamath, a country ruled by dragons whose status is determined by their size, strength, and firepower. That's for male dragons, of course: female dragons, in addition to being without fire and fighting claws, must take care not to come close enough to a male to "blush," which will of course ruin a female's prospects for marriage to any other dragon. Nonetheless the dragon heroines of Tooth and Claw, from motherly Berend to the ruined, mysterious Sebeth find a way to make their mark in the midst of the males' battles for power--whether fought with teeth or in courts of law. The main dispute throughout the story arises when the elderly noble dragon Bon dies, leaving his gold to his children, along with his body for them to eat, for it is in eating dragon-flesh that dragons can attain great size and power. Of course a dispute arises about just how much of their father's body each child was entitled to, and disputes ensue which force all five siblings to take sides, despite the very real danger of being eaten by an irate brother-in-law if the case goes against them!

This story of one family's troubles gives the reader a glimpse at a fascinating alien world full of dragons, treasure, frilly hats, and the little-seen monsters known as the Yarge.

Mary Lou @ Central

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's newest novel, Americanah, is an insightful meditation on how humans constantly establish identity through race, ethnicity, heritage, citizenship, education, interests, and love.

The observant and quick-witted protagonist, Ifemelu, emigrates from Nigeria to the United States during her college years, leaving behind her first love, Obinze. Ifemelu quickly learns that race and social standing are complex and entangled in the United States, leading strangers to make assumptions of her based on her skin color. As she struggles for financial and social security, Ifemelu is repeatedly challenged by questions of identity: What are the implications if she dates a white man? Should she have to straighten her hair for a job interview? Should she adopt an American accent?

Once established in the world of American academia, Ifemelu begins collecting her experiences as a "non-American black" in her blog and critically explores the peculiar (and pernicious) quirks of racial identity in America. Meanwhile, a highly-educated Obinze leaves Nigeria for the United Kingdom and struggles financially without proper documentation. Later, he returns to Nigeria and establishes himself as a wealthy man.

The novel begins with Ifemelu's decision to return to Nigeria after years in the United States. She reaches out to Obinze after years of estrangement and both must grapple with their identities as Nigerians who have spent years abroad and lovers who have spent years away from each other.

Adichie's strength is in her ability to write complex characters that are incredibly vivid. She clearly depicts the nuance of mannerisms, speech patterns, and thought processes without taking away from the forward motion of the plot. She draws from her own life experience as a dual citizen, peppering her writing with Igbo language and descriptions of Nsukka, illustrating the world of academia, and encouraging the reader to critically examine cultural norms.

Through Americanah, it becomes apparent that identity is shaped by many diverse factors, becoming flexible for the time, place, people, and circumstance. It makes a great counterpart to The Thing Around Your Neck, Adichie's collection of short stories that also explores the theme of identity.

Shannon @ Center Street

Villard Square Reads

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With his characteristic humor and in-your-face storytelling, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff paints a bleak picture of his hometown in Detroit: An American Autopsy, this portrait of a crumbling Detroit. From corruption at every level of city politics to fire stations without functioning fire alarms, it's hard to believe the anecdotes related are happening in the United States. A disturbing, fascinating, and ultimately tentatively hopeful read.

Jessica @ Villard Square

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

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Rachel Chu is a regular ABC (American Born Chinese) who works hard, but she's nervous about meeting her boyfriend's parents for the first time. Nick comes from one of the wealthiest old-money families in Singapore so naturally he's expected to marry a girl of a certain class, but does Rachel make the grade? His friends and family put her through the wringer. At the same time Nick's cousin Astrid, the Paris Hilton of Singapore, has her own problems. She married Michael, a middle-class guy, who may be having an affair.

The jet set of Asia delivers hilarity via excessive parties, general cattiness and class arrogance. There are gold diggers and good guys, resolute matriarchs and merciless socialites all enmeshed in the trials of being wealthy and in love. Rachel and Astrid's lives are out of control and the results change both women and how they view the world around them, especially the men in their lives.

Jacki @ Central

Villard Square Reads

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Haiti is known to be among the poorest of all countries. But, as Amy Wilentz argues in Farewell, Fred Voodoo, "Haiti has always been the most modern of nations," in globalization, in being home to one of the three defining revolutions of the 1700's and in being the first of all nations to overthrow a colonial government. This book, by a frequent visitor and sometimes resident of Haiti, provides a useful view of a nation that has faced unparalleled challenges.

Kirsten @ Villard Square

Villard Square Reads

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Shred: The Revolutionary Diet: 6 Weeks 4 Inches 2 Sizes by Ian K. Smith

The diet works... if you follow it. It's a weight loss program that combines diet confusion, meal spacing and exercising. Diet Confusion, like muscle confusion, tricks the body and revs up its performance. In the same way you need to vary your workout to see results, switch up your food intake to boost your metabolism. You'll constantly be eating; his suggested meal spacing is eating every three to three and half hours; four meals or meal replacements (soups, smoothies, shakes) and 3 snacks a day. Most of the recipes included in the book are easy to make.

Deborah S @ Villard Square

Treasures of the Rare Books Room: Military Cycling in the Rocky Mountains

Treasures of the Rare Books Room: Military Cycling in the Rocky Mountains

In 1896 an experiment was launched to see whether the bicycle might serve a useful purpose to the Army of the United States. Lt. James A. Moss, only 25 years old at the time, led a group of black soldiers (a.k.a. Buffalo Soldiers) from the 25th Infantry located in Ft. Missoula, Montana on two experimental trips before undertaking a 1,900 mile bike journey to St. Louis, Missouri. Newspaper accounts, maps, reports and other historical information about the longer expedition may be found at the this bicyclecorps website.

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Details of the two experimental trips are found in a pamphlet published by the American Sports Publishing Company titled Military Cycling in the Rocky Mountains. This treasure in the collection of the Milwaukee Public Library is one of three extant copies listed as being owned by public institutions. It gives fascinating details of the trips as well as numerous pictures.

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For example, on the trip to Yellowstone Park which commenced on August 15, 1896, the following was listed as the medicines that were taken on the 791 mile trip: "One bottle Jamaica ginger, one box C. C. pills, one box quinine pills, one box camphor pills, one bottle Squib's mixture."

If you are interested in viewing this pamphlet, please call the Art, Music and Recreation Department at 414-286-3071 to arrange a visit.

Patricia DeFrain, Rare Books Librarian

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