November 2013 Archives

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"But the distance I felt came not from country or people; it came from within me. I was as distant from myself as a hawk from the moon."


Published in 1974, James Welch's Winter in the Blood is considered a classic in the cannon of Native American literature. The then contemporary story follows an unnamed protagonist as he sets out to find the woman who took his electric razor and gun. Set on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and neighboring towns in the Hi-Line of Montana, his journey takes him to a series of dive bars and sleazy hotels as he encounters a number of characters that only add to his mishaps. But is the gun and electric razor really what the narrator is looking for or is there something more?

Welch's novel is more than a series of drunken escapades and one-night stands as the narrator combines childhood flashbacks with current affairs. He is frequently haunted by the memories of a childhood accident that killed his older brother as well as recurring thoughts of his father freezing to death in a irrigation ditch on his way home from a bar. It is through the company of a blind elder and the stories of the past that the protagonist may finally begin to see himself.

While it may be easy to get caught up in the beauty of the poetic prose, the rich description of setting and landscape, and the meaningful themes of modern culture versus cultural heritage, Winter in the Blood is a story that will stick with you long after you finish it; check it out today!

Hayley @ Central

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

lifeaswe.jpgWhat would it take to end life as we know it? Would it require all-out nuclear war? Virulent viruses that cause zombies to walk the earth? Alien invaders from far-off spiral arms of the galaxy? Or maybe something a little more close to earth: the Moon. How exactly can the Moon bring about the end of civilization, you ask? Well it turns out that Susan Beth Pfeffer has explored exactly that idea in her excellent novel Life as We Knew It.

Life as We Knew It is told in the manner of a diary, written by a sixteen year old girl named Miranda living in Pennsylvania. It begins like any other young adult novel, with a teenager girl and her problems with friends, family, school, and her hopes and dreams for the future. Yet something different is happening, not that Miranda pays too much attention. A meteor is going to hit the Moon, so big that it will be visible on the Earth. Miranda isn't too excited for the event, indeed she complains because all of her teachers are giving her extra homework based around the event.

Then, when the event occurs, everything changes. The moon's orbit shifts, ending up closer to the Earth. This, however, proves almost as disastrous as if it crashed into the Earth itself. Weather patterns change, tides surging, terrible floods, typhoons and tornadoes and tempests raging across the world. Panic ensues, but Miranda is very lucky that her mother is not only level-headed but resourceful. Miranda's family stocks up on food and other supplies, trying to prepare for what comes next. But there was no way any of them could be prepared for what comes next.

Life as We Knew It is a tremendous, gripping book about the struggle to survive in circumstances that are simultaneously apocalyptic and realistic. Pfeffer writes Miranda as utterly human, vulnerability tempered by a growing strength in the face of horrific circumstances. Once you pick this book up, you'll find it very hard to put down. You'll turn each page, following Miranda and her family utterly absorbed. Definitely check this book out as soon as possible, as you'll never know when life as we know it might end.

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Have you ever lost a pet? Did that pet ever waltz right back into your house like nothing ever happened? That has happened to me, and it is also the premise of Caroline Paul's book Lost Cat: a True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology.

The book begins when Caroline Paul gets in a terrible accident where she breaks the tibia and fibula bones in her leg. That part is awful but also funny because her two cats at the heart of this book are also named Tibia and Fibula (or Tibby and Fibby for short). She's home on the couch, feeling depressed, and attempting to heal when Tibby, the fraidy cat of the two, runs away. She feels this is literally adding insult to injury. She searches her neighborhood wailing for Tibby, hanging up posters, and feeling utterly worried about her beloved cat's safety. She even enlists the help of a psychic, to no avail. Then after five weeks gone, Tibby walks back into the house. Not only that, but Tibby looks great! He isn't underfed or dirty, he is just Tibby.

This is where Caroline Paul goes off the deep end. She becomes engrossed in a quest to find out where Tibby went. She wants to know who took care of him. Who heard her yelling for her lost cat and neglected to bring Tibby home? Clearly this person is some king of cat-napping monster. She uses cat-tracking GPS, a tiny cat's-eye-view camera, and a cat communication class to deal with all her feelings of jealousy and betrayal.
In addition to Paul's sincere prose, the entire book is illustrated by her partner, Wendy McNaughton, whose work is truly excellent. She's maybe best known (at least on the internet) for her series Meanwhile on the Rumpus. Her drawings beautifully compliment Caroline's ongoing neuroses (and prose). They are on this weird, purposeful journey together; and over the course of the book Tibby becomes their cat, not just Caroline's cat.

Things happen in the second half of the book that I didn't expect, and, be warned, not all happy things. But this story was so heartfelt and earnest, and so unlike what I expected from a book about cats. I definitely recommend this if you have cats or have had cats in the past, but I think it's mostly a heartfelt story about a woman becoming obsessed with why something got lost.

Allie @ Central

Hawkeye by Matt Fraction

hawkeye1.jpegDid you watch the 2012 Summer Blockbuster The Avengers and wonder why exactly there was a dude whose powers were 'has bow and arrow'? Poor Clint Barton, also known as Hawkeye, isn't exactly the most super of superheroes. That's exactly the angle that Matt Fraction takes on the current series of Hawkeye. The first 11 Issues of the series are collected in two trade paperbacks available at the library: My Life as a Weapon and Little Hits. These detail the 'off hours', when Clint's not off saving the world with the Avengers, and instead is dealing with some more down-to-earth problems like his divorce, flooding, stray dogs and shady business men.

hawkeye2.jpegThe highlight of the series is the emphasis Hawkeye's vulnerability: both in terms of being a hero, and just a human being. He's the 'normal guy' of the Avengers, the one without the big fancy powers to keep him and those he cares about safe. He only has himself, his wits, and as we see throughout the series, his friends. Fraction also takes some interesting and wildly creative turns in narrative, as well. Issue 11, found in 'Little Hits', is told entirely from the perspective of a dog. Hawkeye also has won two big awards - the 2013 Eisner and Harvey awards for best cover artist. So for fans of The Avengers, or just fans of comics that go off the beaten path of generic do-gooding by super powered do-gooders, Hawkeye is a refreshing and rip-roaring read.

Tim @ Central

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

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Lewis Blake is off to junior high, and like most kids his age, he just wants to fit in. But, while Lewis is smart and outgoing, he is also Native American and poor which makes him an outsider in a class full of non-Native, white students. That is, until he meets George Haddonfield, a new classmate who lives on the nearby Air Force base. Lewis and George bond over the music of Queen, the Wings, and the Beatles, but is that all they have in common? Set in 1975 on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation in upstate New York, Eric Gansworth's debut young adult novel, If I Ever Get Out of Here, chronicles Lewis' struggle to navigate both the familiar customs of reservation life and the typical nuances of a teenager experiencing the "outer" world. As Lewis and George's friendship develops, Lewis feels he must hide his true self behind a series of lies, but what happens when George discovers the truth? Can they still be friends?

If I Ever Get Out of Here is a touching tale that highlights the power of friendship, the importance of cultural exchange, and the magic of rock and roll while touching on darker yet realistic themes like racism, bullying, and the shame associated with poverty. Similar to Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, If I Ever Get Out of Here is an engaging read for teens to explore identity and diverse cultures as well as for adults looking to relive the 70s; check it out today!

Hayley @ Central

A Few Words...

A Few Words...

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Good News, Bad News by Jeff Mack

Two friends, a bunny and a rat, set off to have a picnic. Unfortunately, the weather is not on their side. Using pictures, Jeff Mack tells the story of ups and downs the two friends encounter. Although the book only uses two phrases, "Good news" and "Bad news", it can be a great tool to teach prediction and inference skills to young listeners and readers.


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Thumpy Feet written and illustrated by Betsy Lewin

An energetic cat fills the pages of Thumpy Feet. Simple words describe the cat as it eat, plays, and takes a snooze. This book is great for young readers to act out the movements and sounds of the story. Besides, who doesn't love a mischievous cat?

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Ah ha! by Jeff Mack

"Aahh!, sighs the happy and relaxed frog. "Ah Ha!" screams the excited little boy as he catches the frog. This book uses simple words to depict a wide range of feelings. When read with expression, children will love the silliness of the frog and his journey. In this book, Mack showcases his ability to reach child through humor, pictures, and a few precise words.


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Stick! written and illustrated by Andy Pritchett

Dogs love to play fetch, especially the dog in Stick! Finding a partner to play with proves to be a difficult task. The persistent puppy in this story finally finds someone to play with, and even makes a few friends along the way! Brightly colored pages, simple drawings, and only a few words make this a great story for beginning listeners and readers.

Hillary @ Central

National Book Awards 2013

The National Book Awards (NBA) has a reputation for recognizing literary excellence. Independent panels of five writers choose the National Book Award Winners in four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People's Literature. Take a look at the 2013 winners.

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Nonfiction--The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer paints a picture of the last 30 years of life in America by following several citizens, including the son of tobacco farmers in the rural south, a Washington insider who denies his idealism for riches, and Silicon Valley billionaire.

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Fiction--The Good Lord Bird by James McBride. Fleeing his violent master at the side of abolitionist John Brown at the height of the slavery debate in mid-nineteenth-century Kansas Territory, Henry pretends to be a girl to hide his identity throughout the raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859.

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Poetry--Incarnadine by Mary Szybist. One poem is presented as a diagrammed sentence. Another is an abecedarium made of lines of dialogue spoken by girls overheard while assembling a puzzle. Several poems arrive as a series of Annunciations, while others purport to give an update on Mary, who must finish the dishes before she will open herself to God. Inside these poems is a deep yearning for love, motherhood, the will to see things as they are and to speak.

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Young People's Literature--The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata. Just when 12-year-old Summer thinks nothing else can possibly go wrong in a year filled with bad luck, an emergency takes her parents to Japan, leaving Summer to care for her little brother while helping her grandmother cook and do laundry for the harvest workers.

Jacki @ Central

Zablocki Reads

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Something to Remember You By: A Perilous Romance by Gene Wilder takes place in 1944 war-torn London. Wounded Corporal Tom Cole has just been assigned to military intelligence and he has acquired a new girlfriend, a mysterious Danish girl he met in a cozy café. But is she really who she seems? No one is telling Tom the truth when he questions her allegiances. Wilder, known for his broad comedy skills, writes beautiful little love stories that will capture you with their simplicity and depth.

Jan @ Zablocki

Perfect Pies for Pilgrim Parties

What better way to positively punctuate your Thanksgiving dinner than a perfect, plump piece of pleasing pie? If you're stuck for ideas on what to bake, why not check out one of these beautiful books filled with radiant recipes that will leave your guests sated and satisfied. And for once, we'll let these mouth-watering covers speak for themselves. Click on whatever seems most appetizing to you!

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Tim @ Central

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

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Allie Brosh, author of the new book Hyperbole and a Half, and I are soulmates. I am absolutely sure of this. Not just because both of our names are Allie (spelled correctly), but because she gets it. She gets pets, she gets depression, she gets cake, she gets procrastination, adulthood, and spider fear, and she gets me. This book gives me all of the feelings.

This book is a collection of her writings and drawings from her website Hyperbole and a Half that cover just about whatever she wants. Her drawings are some of the best things to come out of MS Paint since the programs invention. She represents herself as a stick-ish figure with a pink dress a tuft of yellow hair that kind of looks like a party hat. It's not high art, but it is hilarious. There is a bunch of stuff in there about her dogs, who are quite dumb but very very sweet. She also tells a hysterical story about a childhood run-in with some cake. Her stories can be incredibly funny, but also tender and meaningful.

One of the best things she does is talk honestly about her depression. On her site she addresses how she used to post a lot more but slowed down because she was depressed. It's not something she dealt with and now it's gone, it's something she deals with all the time. She told the Guardian, "It's sort of like a thing that is maybe a tunnel, but also maybe a giant tube that just keeps going in a circle. And you can't tell which one it is while you're in it. There might be light, but there might just be more tube." YES. She doesn't gloss over it; she dives in and brings you with. But it's not all sad, and there is some truly priceless comedy in those stories.

You can read an excerpt an excerpt on NPR. Let it be known, I like this book alot.

Allie @ Central

"Women don't realize how much store men set on the regularity of their habits. We absorb their comings and goings into our bodies, their rhythms into our bones..."

rohouse.jpg Thirteen year-old Joe Coutt's life is turned upside down when his mother is brutally attacked and raped near the ceremonial round house on a North Dakota Indian reservation. Set in the present, Louise Erdrich's The Round House is narrated by Joe as he looks back at this troublesome time and the trauma that deeply affected his family.With a lack of support from local authorities due to jurisdiction disputes, Joe starts his own investigation into the matter in a coming of age tale that weaves tragedy, humor, morality, and spirituality together as Erdrich explores the importance of family, friendship, and culture in Native American communities. While Joe is exploring typical teenage tendencies like underage drinking, the opposite sex, and lying to his parents, he also takes on a burden that will change his life forever. Despite the hindrances he faces, will Joe find justice for his mother and help his family find closure?

Read by Gary Farmer, the audiobook version of The Round House adds an additional dimension to the story as Farmer provides a slow, authentic voice that captures the essence of character and the momentum of plot. Listening to or reading The Round House will leave you immersed in the suspense and drama of this complex but uplifting tale; check it out today!

Hayley @ Central

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Hear about the best books 2013 has to offer. Suggestions made by librarians Tom Olson and Jacki Potratz will make holiday gift-giving a breeze. This is your chance to ask questions before you buy. Many genres, as well as children's and young adult recommendations, will be presented. All books on display will be available for checkout. Preview the titles on our Give Books! 2013 Pinterest board.

Jacki @ Central

How well do you know the Brewers?

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100 Things Brewers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Tom Haudricourt (foreword by Jim Gantner) is a salute to the home team by guys who know. Haudricourt is a sportswriter who covers the Milwaukee Brewers and Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and he has been named Wisconsin Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. He lives in Bayside, Wisconsin. Jim Gantner is a former MLB player who spent his entire career with the Milwaukee Brewers as a second baseman. Known affectionately as Gumby because of the way he turned double plays, he is an inductee of the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame. He lives in Eden, Wisconsin.

Together, they present a variety of Milwaukee Brewer lore that spans the team's move from Seattle in 1970 to the present day. Discover interesting tidbits such as the origination of the racing sausages or who was the only Brewer booed for collecting a game winning hit. You might even learn the recipe behind the Secret Stadium Sauce.

David @ Zablocki

"Only the dead have seen the end of war." --Plato

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Veterans Day, November 11th, was originally named Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I. Joseph Persico's Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918: World War I and Its Violent Climax covers the last hours of the war after the armistice was announced after 5:30 a.m. Allied Commander-in-Chief Marshal Ferdinand Foch ordered "Hostilities will cease on the entire front beginning at 11:00 A.M. November 11." Some French, British and American generals canceled attacks, while other Allied generals continued to launch attacks since Foch's order didn't include an immediate ceasefire, to continue punishing the defeated Germans and for more glory.

Persico follows individual soldiers as they survived or were killed knowing the war was in its final hours and minutes. The U.S. 26th Division went over the top at 10:35 a.m. The British 7th Dragoons cavalry attacked at 10:50 a.m. Private Henry Gunther was the last American killed at 10:59 a.m. More than 2,700 French, British, Belgian, American and German soldiers were killed in the last five-and-a-half hours of "the war to end all wars," comparable to the numbers killed at Pearl Harbor and September 11th.

Van Lingle Mungo @ Central

Cross the boundary line and enter the 'rez!'

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"And what one finds on reservations is more than scars, tears, blood, and noble sentiment. There is beauty in Indian life, as well as meaning and a long history of interaction. We love our reservations..."

Following a series familial tragedies, Leech Lake Ojibwe band member David Treuer begins to seriously contemplate reservation life and what it means to be "Indian." In his full-length, non-fiction book, Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life, Treuer explores the ins and outs of Indian country using a combination of journalistic approaches, historical accounts, and personal memoirs.

Focusing primarily on bands of Minnesota and Wisconsin Ojibwe, Treuer utilizes insightful, vivid stories to highlight both the positive and negative characteristics and complexities of Indian reservations and how they got to be what they are today. Each chapter begins with an interview and anecdote as Treuer combines the present and past to build up larger themes surrounding tribal sovereignty; treaty rights and natural resource conservation; the "Indian problem" and assimilation efforts initiated by the U.S. government; the disparity between casino wealth and crushing poverty; and the importance of cultural heritage and indigenous language revitalization.

Rez Life is a must read for those not only seeking to delve deeper into Native American history, but to also expand upon the somber, less discussed history of the United States. So cross the boundary line, enter the "rez," and explore the honesty and beauty that lies within; check it out today!

Hayley @ Central


Lessons from the Heartland by Barbara Miner

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Read the local news or turn on talk radio and you will hear the continuous refrain: the public schools in Milwaukee are failing. Problems with discipline will be brought up, teachers will be harangued, and poor test scores will be cited. How did we get to this point?

In Lessons from the Heartland, journalist Barbara Miner takes us through the history of MPS in the last half century to help us understand better what has happened. Miner looks at the Milwaukee Public Schools' problems in the context of the growth (and later, shrinking) of a major American city and the cultural, social, and economic phenomena influencing the district's actions and policies. She talks about issues such as integration, demographic changes, politics, and in particular, the rise of school choice, a policy that has had a dramatic effect on the funding of MPS. While her point of view is distinctly from the left side of the political spectrum, any reader will find much to learn from and reflect on in her analysis.

Brett @ Central

Zablocki Reads

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For knitters who have always wanted to knit socks but were afraid of working with double-pointed needles, now there is a technique created by Curtis which allows you to make socks on two needles. Of course, there is a seam required at the end. But Curtis has devised a technique which incorporates a crocheted seam, which allows the seam to lay flatter. Additionally, most of the designs incorporate the seam into the design, so they look like part of the sock. Check out Knit Your Socks on Straight: A New and Inventive Technique With Just Two Needles.

Mary S @ Zablocki

Treasures of the Rare Books Room: Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini

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The Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini has been called the world's weirdest book. This encyclopedia of sorts, thoroughly describes an unknown world and its inhabitants. Though written in an imaginary language, it has a recognizable format - table of contents, chapters, diagrams, drawings and even an index. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of the world Serafini has created. Topics covered, include insects, fish, birds, mammals, plant life, people, machinery and clothing. Some illustrations show the seasonal changes of a tree, how a school of fish swims, how machines work, and how to eat certain kinds of foods. When "reading" through this book it's difficult not to wonder how to decipher the mysteries displayed. Many scholars and fans have attempted just that but failed with each try.

The Milwaukee Public Library holds one copy from a limited edition of 4000 printed in the United States in 1983. A complete digitized version of this 1983 edition can also be found online.

To view this item, please call the Art, Music and Recreation Department at 414-286-3071 to arrange a visit.

Valerie @ Central

Motorcycles and Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor

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"Hey, wanna hear a good story? Supposedly it's a true one. It's a long story but it goes something like this...."

Set on the Otter Lake Reserve in Ontario, Canada, Motorcycles and Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor starts with a young, white man arriving in town on a 1953 Chief Indian motorcycle to say goodbye to Lillian Benojee, a well-respected community elder and a beloved mother and grandmother. "John" is Lillian's friend from the past, and her dying wish is for her daughter Maggie Second, the reserve chief, to find happiness and balance. While Maggie is busy juggling tribal politics as well as her life as a single mother, she still finds time to spend with this charming yet mysterious stranger. But who is this man really? He carves petroglyphs into limestone outcroppings, dances in the moonlight, ties sweetgrass braids, and his knowledge of the Anishnawbe language is exceptional for an outsider let alone lifelong residents of the reserve. While "John" may have wooed Chief Maggie Second, he is not fooling her son Virgil, her brother Wayne, or the area's large population of raccoons. But can they give "John" the boot before he starts to stir up real trouble?

Taylor uses a contemporary setting, clever characters, and a comedic plot to explore past and present indigenous issues including boarding school traumas, religion, tribal politics, and traditional native mythology. Motorcycles and Sweetgrass is full of humor and magic to keep the pages turning, and this is one book you don't need to be tricked into reading; check it out today!

Hayley @ Central

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