New in Children’s

Going into winter and the urge to cozy up is strong.  After unbundling from the growing layers of coats and scarves, curl up and read a new picture book to your little one:

The Lines on Nana’s Face by Simona Ciraolo


As a grandmother is getting ready to celebrate her birthday, her grandchild remarks on how curious they are by all of the lines and wrinkles on her face.  The grandmother takes time to explain that each wrinkle reminds her of an important part of her life – laugh lines from smiling so much on the beach, a sad furrow from a goodbye – and the child is excited to hear these stories.  This new book carries a positive message regarding our bodies and shares the value of aging, but also living in your body with the acquisition of wrinkles, scars, and stretches.

Bang Bang I Shot the Moon by Luis Amavisca


This is the story of a little boy who gets into mischief and hurts the moon.  The moon falls to Earth and can’t get back to the sky.  This new book carries a not-so-subtle message about gun violence and could perhaps be a simpler story to help explain such a large issue. It shares a lesson regarding gun violence and violence in general but is also a good story about the consequences of our actions and the value of working together.

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The World is at your fingertips

City Atlas: Travel the World with 30 City Maps, written by Georgia Cherry, illustrated by Martin Haake

“I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.” – Jack Kerouac


Before there were Google maps and GPS, there were Atlases. I remember as a child scouring over villages and towns; examining how cities oozed into suburbs and suburbs succumbed to forests, rivers and lakes. Highways and secondary roads connected everything much like the veins of the human anatomy only instead ensuring the steady flow of traffic throughout the country. Unlike the obligatory “Are we there yet?” of my peers,  I was more than happy to enjoy the journey; the car and its rear window my world.  City Atlas is a fantastic read for beginning and seasoned geographers young and old. Each page has a beloved city from across the globe.

On the first day we read it, I had my kids choose where we should go. We hit up Mumbai, San Francisco and in celebration of the upcoming Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro all before lunch. Every page is beautifully illustrated to incorporate well-known landmarks, cultural traditions, local food specific to the area and fast facts. As an added bonus there is a picture search on every page. I particularly enjoyed looking for koala bears in Sydney. The illustrations are wonderful; consistently eye-catching and intricately collaged across the page. The colors of each city seemed to be flawlessly aligned with the colors of the country and culture. Mumbai, for example was bursting with myriad colors; Gandhi is drawn wearing lettered garb and a strikingly beautiful elephant God is drawn slightly off center. It is an absolute feast for the eyes. I also enjoyed that the geographical landscape was the original layer and all of the landmarks are placed throughout the city; a man –made topography. You almost feel as though you yourself are sauntering through the cities. So for those budding Rick Steves out there intent on globetrotting, get a head start by navigating these cities from the comfort of your couch- no passport and TSA frisking required!

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Filed under Book, Book Review, Cedar Rapids Public Library, Children's Books, Family, Uncategorized, Victoria

Conversations on Color and Understanding

In light of the recent events involving the murder of Philandro Castile and Alton Sterling, there are no words to describe the anguish and devastation family members and friends must feel. It is horrific, frightening and yet cases continue to occur throughout the United States every single day. According to the NAACP, African American (mainly males) are incarcerated at nearly six times the rates of whites and if current trends continue 1 in 3 black males born today will spend time in prison sometime during their life.

Race, often a taboo subject in the US, draws a constant division within the social, economic and political landscape of the country. It is historical. It is cultural and it is something people of color live through every single day. It surely, then is no longer acceptable to simply teach our children to acknowledge all people of color, or to post our solidarity on social media sites. There is something all of us can do every single day. In the beginning that something is simply to become more educated about those who are different from us. To discover their histories, their daily lives and the adversities they face. By learning and understanding sympathy, empathy can be gained and bridges built.

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehesi Coates

“I’m the descendant of enslaved black people in this country. You could’ve been born in 1820 if you were black and looked back to your ancestors and saw nothing but slaves all the way back to 1619. Look forward another 50 or 60 years and saw nothing but slaves”. – Ta-Nehisi Coates

Author, tajournalist and educator Ta-Nehisi Coates is a prominent figure offering powerful insight into the complex discussion over race in America. Raised in West Baltimore with a Black Panther-publisher-librarian father and teacher mother, Coates learned from a very early age that his body had a price and that on the streets where he grew up, it could be spent at any given moment if he was not careful. It could be taken by classmates, by teenagers in his neighborhood, or by the police for any reason. He learned that he could be beaten by his father if he did not stand up for himself and also beaten for being disrespectful. In this book, essentially an extended letter to his 15 year old son, Coates argues that the reason his body has a price is systemic, social and political racism. It is because black people have been subjugated and discriminated against since slavery and that slavery still exists but in other forms: in unfair housing that has led to inner-city projects, in the highly disproportionate incarceration rates of the black man and in white people’s indifference that any of that is going on. It is written with honesty. It is unapologetic and at times that is achingly real. Toni Morrison said the book is “necessary reading”.  I heartily agree! Check it out!


Ghettoside: a true story of Murder in America, by Jill Leovy

“When you see the suffering and pain that it brings, you’d have to be blind, mad or a coward to resign yourself to the plague”. Albert Camus, the Plague

gh LA Times journalist Jill Leovy began a blog in 2006 to document homicides in Los Angeles County to show people the reality of the statistics.  In Ghettoside, Leovy elaborates on this blog by giving powerful arguments as to why murder among black males in LA is so high and yet mostly invisible. She traces the Great Migration of blacks from the South to LA and correlates the injustice of the legal system in the South and historically how that translates to inner city black areas with their own justice system. After Bryant Tennelle, the black son of LA Homicide detective Walter Tennelle is shot, John Skaggs takes the case. The book shines a light on the single case illuminating the reality of life on the streets in Southside LA. Leovy writes like she cares. Like the investigators she is documenting, she goes through details and evidence with a fine tooth comb and what she produces is incredibly gripping work. It is well researched and allows the reader to examine issues on a grand scale and her ability to report on one single case from beginning to end is perhaps the greatest strength of the book.  I can’t say I enjoyed reading the book. It was overwhelming; the murder on the streets almost every day by mainly black males against mainly black males in an environment where the only justice is street justice is a hard pill to swallow. It hones in on detectives who care; who are not merely doing busy work, but who open up cold cases and have the victims families and associates respect and warm to them.  While there is no closure on this subject, the fact that this book has been written is a sign that perhaps once we know about these things, we can change them.


Unselfie, by Michele Borba

“Me…We”! A poem by Muhammad Ali after a Harvard graduation address on changing the world.


Michele Borba discusses the current trends of children being raised in academic, self-centered environments; giving them a competitive edge, while neglecting a kind, empathetic edge. In her book, Unselfie she presents nine strategies to help enforce empathy. While dance or piano lessons are great and academics are important, Borba argues that what kids really need to be happy and successful is empathy. Children attuned to the feelings of others are happier. The digital age provides problems. Elementary school aged kids spend more and more time in front of screen which has long lasting effects on learning and social interaction. Kids don’t play outside like they used to and well, they’re changing. They are increasingly more detached, self-centered, anxious, stressed and depressed. Borba offers strategies and techniques to help build strong, happy empathetic children.

All three books are available for check-out!

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Filed under Book, Book Review, Cedar Rapids Public Library, History, Investigative Jounalism, Memoir, Nonfiction, Uncategorized, Victoria

Titles for Relief

What a summer this has been.  As I have enjoyed the return of warmer weather the season has seemed particularly heavy.  I am not immune to the happenings around me, and in normal human fashion I look for relief, healing, and understanding to navigate the new map of emotions that is drawn from events out of my control.  Music, books, and movies have always been a go-to source of relief, a place where I could see my own emotions reflected back to me and in that experience feel comfort that I wasn’t the only one.  Expression is the key, and (to shamelessly plug the library) the library is housing all of these stories that bind us into narratives.  Here are three titles for relief during the Leo season of summer:

This film is based on a novel written by Stephen Elliott and has the subtitle (not used in movie title) A Memoir of Moods, Masochism, and Murder.  Franco is the title character who has published a book based on abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of his father.  Mid way through a book talk his father (previously thought dead) re-appears.  The story is a mix of memories and real-time events choreographed so that the viewer gets a feel for what the relationship had been versus what it is.  Major themes in The Adderall Diaries connect to ideas of validation, forgiveness, and personal accountability.  Anyone who’s ever had a dysfunctional relationship will understand the appeal of validation, the need for someone to say they were in the wrong.  Without giving away the whole film, Franco’s character comes to some rational conclusions reflected in his behavior towards the end of the movie. Rotten Tomatoes only gives it a 33% but I’m going to veer away from that percentage, the movie may be meaningless to you if you can’t relate to any of the relationships but if you can then just a chance to reflect on the selfish notion of validation is worth it.

What do you know about the Staple Singers?  Have you heard of Mavis Staples?  The Staple Singers were a family gospel and R&B band coalesced around Roebuck ‘Pops’ Staples. They’re best known (I think) for their 1972 hit I’ll Take You There (Come Go With Me), other hits such as Touch A Hand (Make a Friend), and We’ll Get Over are requirements for any greatest hits combination of the Staple Singers.  When my first daughter was born I listened to the Staple Singers day and night.  She was in the ICU for ten days and nothing could ease the worry except the sound of Mavis, Pops, Cleotha, Pervis, and Yvonne.  Still, when I listen to the Staple Singers I can’t help but feel hopeful,  they refill the heart in a joyful way.  The Very Best Of The Staple Singers is a great place to start but the library owns three of four titles on CD by the Staple Singers, explore all of them.

Katrine Marcal has written a treatise on economic man.  Where is the healing in this, you’ll ask? And I’ll respond by saying that so much of what is socially unequal in this world has to do with economics and the philosophy behind markets.  Adam Smith is the metaphor, a Scottish moral philosopher, he wrote the Wealth of Nations, (considered to be the bible of capitalism in some circles), he pontificated on the intrinsic self interest of man and how that was the core energy that would keep a market afloat.  Meanwhile he never cooked a meal for himself because he always lived with his mother.  These two concepts (economic man vs a caring economy) are pitted against each other in roughly 200 pages.  This book is as much a feminist critique of capitalistic philosophy as it is a history of the evolution of marginalizing empathy, love, and connection.  Adam Smith created the economic man, “rational, selfish, and divorced from his environment.  Alone on an island or alone in society.  It doesn’t matter.  There is no society, only a mass of individuals.”  Except reading that you know it’s not true, we’re not really a mass of individuals, in fact our lives are deeply connected.

These are just three narratives of the many housed at the library.  Whether in conversation, the rhythm of music, the emotional visuals in film, or in quiet meditation with the words on a page, we can heal in community.  The library has all of these things for you, in the words of The Staple Singers- if your ready, come go with me.


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