Storm in a Teacup by Helen Czerski

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: This book tackles the ‘physics of everyday life’ by using small-scale examples (like why teacups slosh) to illustrate large-scale themes.

What made me pick it up: I had read Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and was waiting for the next book by that author when I saw this, so I placed a hold.

My favorite things: First off, this audio reader is excellent. Who knew a cheery British accent would make learning physics fun? She explains concepts in very easy to understand ways and relates them to common occurrences like getting a static electric shock so you understand the principles. She also drops a lot of fun experiments into the text anecdotally that you might want to try. (The raisin one is quite fun and you might already have the supplies).

Who it’s great for: Anyone interested in physics or science or learning more about our world. Teachers or librarians or parents looking for some fun STEM program/project ideas.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find Storm in a Teacup or Seven Brief Lessons on Physics at Amazon (affiliate links) or your local library.


 

You Can’t Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Phoebe Robinson reflects on her experiences as a black woman in comedy and on her observations about race and gender. She challenges her readers to do better.

What made me pick it up: This one has been making the rounds at work so I’ve had it on my TBR list for a while.

My favorite things: Robinson easily discusses race and gender in a way that is both accessible and unapologetic. Her sharp wit is so compelling that you can’t help but laugh even if what she’s calling out is you or something you do. I appreciate that she writes the same way she talks – with a lot of unnecessary abbreviations. Although, I’m not sure I agree with her spelling of cazsh (casual).

Who it’s great for: Fans of her stand-up or her podcasts, Sooo Many White Guys and 2 Dope Queens. Readers looking for humor with depth and purpose.

Abby’s rating: three-and-a-half-shells


Want a copy? Find one at Amazon (affiliate link) or see if it’s available at a library near you.


Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Catrina struggles to adjust as her family moves to better accommodate her younger sister’s chronic illness. Their new community’s enthusiasm for ghosts and Día de Muertos is at once scary and a good opportunity to connect with their mother’s Mexican heritage.

What made me pick it up: I saw this on a colleague’s desk and needed to read it immediately.

My favorite things: In her latest book, Telgemeier successfully takes on a difficult topic and makes it more accessible and less scary. Her art and storytelling are as compelling as ever and make Ghosts difficult to put down even once.

Who it’s great for: Telgemeier’s devoted following will already know about this, but it’s a great choice for any tweens interested in graphic novels. This is also a great choice for those coping with chronic illness in one of their loved ones.

Abby’s rating: four-shells


Want a copy? Find one at Amazon (affiliate link) or see if it’s available at a library near you.


A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Children’s book author Ezra Jack Keats and his creation of the iconic book The Snowy Day.

What made me pick it up: I saw it in the Children’s section of the library and it reminded me of the book on e.e. cummings I had read recently. I enjoyed that so I checked this out.

My favorite things: This book mimics Keats’ beautiful illustration style which makes it both nostalgic and engaging. It was interesting to learn about the hardships he faced as an artist before he became the prolific author we know him as today. I also liked how the story of Keats’ life was being told to Peter.

Who it’s great for: Keats fans. Snowy Day fans. Kids who want to learn more about an author.

Erica’s rating: four-shells.


Find these books at Amazon (affiliate links): A Poem for Peter; The Snowy Day or your local library.


 

The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister

Originally published in: 2013

What it’s about: In this sequel to The School of Essential Ingredients find out what happens after the implied happily ever afters, and meet some new characters.

What made me pick it up: I really enjoyed Bauermeister’s previous book. Since I liked that on audio, I got this on audio as well.

My favorite things: I was happy to continue following along with some of the characters from Essential Ingredients and see where their stories led and root for their happy endings. I really like how well this author can tell two sides to a story or relationship and make them both sympathetic. Also, her evocation of the Pacific Northwest makes me want to visit soon. Tall trees, dense air, and everything ocean.

Who it’s great for: Fans of sweet love stories, complicated life stories, and solid characters. Also good for cooks and food lovers.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.


Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: The story of a 1921 murder in Tulsa, Oklahoma unwinds through two perspectives: William’s, set at the time of the murder, and Rowan’s in the present day.

What made me pick it up: I read a prepub review that piqued my interest and put it on hold as soon as our library ordered it.

My favorite things: Latham uses the dual timelines explore the parallels between racially motivated violence in the early 20th century and the violence of today that has inspired the Black Lives Matter movement. Based on the 1921 massacre of Tulsa’s African American community, the author effectively uses mystery and suspense to bring attention to an often forgotten part of American history.

Who it’s great for: Teens interested in understanding racial violence and justice in American history. Fans of murder mysteries and readers of historical fiction.

Abby’s rating: four-shells


Want a copy? Find one at Amazon (affiliate link) or see if it’s available at a library near you.


The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm by LeVar Burton

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Originally published in: 2014

What it’s about: A young mouse who is scared of a storm listens to her grandfather read a book about a brave rhino who overcomes a challenging situation.

What made me pick it up: LeVar Burton! Literacy hero and host of one of my favorite shows from childhood Reading Rainbow. Also, Jordy. Once I found out he had written a book, I checked it out immediately.

My favorite things: This book is really well done and perfect for complex situations and emotions kids may experience. It is a story within a story, so it’s a bit meta, but the mouse reading about the rhino learning how to handle an overwhelming situation with support and understanding from his community is well done. There are a lot of one liners that would make great mantras for little ones. I also really enjoyed the illustrations.

Who it’s great for: Kids learning about or struggling with big emotions. Young ones going through tough times that are hard for them to understand. Families to read together. Burton fans of any age.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find this book at Amazon (affiliate link) or your local library.


 

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Racism, the kind you respond to viscerally, but also not the kind you might think. When an infant dies of a medical emergency the black nurse who was helping care for him is accused of murder by his white supremacist father. Her white lawyer says that, despite the obvious, race can’t be mentioned during the trial.

What made me pick it up: I really like Jodi Picoult as an author. She writes trials extremely well, and always has some twist at the end to make your jaw drop. The way she weaves stories and characters together enthralls me. When I heard this was about race, I was intrigued. When it started getting phenomenal reviews, I jumped on the holds list.

My favorite things: The word that most comes to mind is masterful. Picoult left me completely speechless with this book. My Goodreads review just says “wow”. Her character building is solid, even of her extremely and overtly racist characters. She does a great job of filling in their back stories and giving you glimpses of their motivations as well as evolution. Most importantly, her examination of race and racism both implicit and explicit is well researched and thoughtful. If you want an added bonus, get yourself an audio version of the book. It’s partly read (and performed expertly) by the great Audra McDonald.

Who it’s great for: Jodi Picoult fans. Readers who enjoy twisty legal books. Anyone interested in racism in our country today.

Erica’s rating: five-shells


Find Small Great Things at Amazon (affiliate link) or your local library.


Running with a Police Escort by Jill Grunenwald

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: Librarian and blogger Jill Grunenwald recounts her unlikely runner’s journey from the couch to the starting line and then, long after most people, to the finish line.

What made me pick it up: I’m a fan of running memoirs and, as a fellow librarian and not-so-fast runner, I knew I’d enjoy this one.

My favorite things: Grunenwald weaves humor through her story as she describes race day excitement and heartbreak, the struggle of training, and an unabashed love for swag. I found her awe for elite runners instantly relatable and appreciated her recognition that slow runners are also working hard and for a much longer time.

Who it’s great for: Fans of memoirs with a fitness focus. Runners of all abilities, and especially those questioning their capacity to become runners.

Abby’s rating: three-shells


Want a copy? Find one at Amazon (affiliate link) or see if it’s available at a library near you.


Podcast Review: Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

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This one is a little bit different. I’m a dedicated follower of a few podcasts and March is Trypod month. As in, Try (a) Pod(cast) Month, a time to encourage others to try favorite podcasts. I’d like to share one of my favorites: Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

Podcast began in: 2016

What it’s about: Religion and spirituality are a big part of many lives, and nonexistent in others. Hosts Vanessa and Casper seek to fill that void with something that they, along with their listeners, feel very strongly about: Harry Potter. Each week the hosts read a chapter and interpret it using a specific spiritual practice. Essentially, they are reading Harry Potter as though it were a sacred text, which is not too far from how many of us feel about it.

What made me pick it up: It feels like I’ve been waiting for this since Harry found out he was a wizard.

My favorite things: This podcast is the perfect length. Each episode is about half an hour long so I know I can get through the latest chapter on my way to work. The hosts take their task seriously and are able to find profound meaning in the simplest of scenes. I might not always agree with their interpretations of character’s words and actions or the significance of certain scenes, but they always find a way to reflect back on their own lives and look for ways to implement what they’ve learned.

Who it’s great for: Harry Potter fans who: a) love podcasts; b) want to give podcasts a try; or c) really just can’t let go and are up for anything Potter related.

Abby’s rating: five-shells