Many Germans accepted the rise of National Socialism — Nazism — and Adolf Hitler. Other individuals worked against him, and many paid with their lives. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of them.

Eric Metaxas in Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy examines the life of this German theologian who tried to influence Christians during the Third Reich. Bonhoeffer, one of eight children, grew up in Berlin, where his father worked as a university professor. Early in his life, Bonhoeffer knew he wanted to become a theologian even though his family had different plans for him. After receiving his degree, he decided to become a pastor instead of remaining in academia. He spent a year in Barcelona, Spain before coming to the United States for additional study.

At the time Bonhoeffer began his career, Hitler and the Nazis came to power. The federated German Evangelical Church fell under their influence. It traced its beginning back to Martin Luther and the Reformation, but many of its churches abandoned that tradition and tried to adhere to the kind of Christianity acceptable to the regime. Bonhoeffer saw through this ruse and developed the Confessing Church, which held to traditional Christian beliefs and resisted Nazi efforts to subvert them. He helped to write the Barmen Declaration protesting changes to official dogma. He lived in London for a time, serving German community churches as a pastor. He also became involved in the ecumenical movement against the Nazis. Upon his return to Germany, Bonhoeffer lost his teaching position,

As Bonhoeffer worked to support the Confessing Church, Hitler continued to cement his hold on Germany. Austria and Czechoslovakia fell into the German sphere. Jews lost their standing in the country Bonhoeffer’s family never supported National Socialism. His twin sister and her husband lived in England throughout the war. Bonhoeffer briefly left for the safety of the United States, but felt he needed to return to Germany.

Throughout all the turmoil in his life, Bonhoeffer continued his theological work. He taught seminary students until stopped by the Nazis. He wrote several books, most notably Cost of Discipleship, based on the Sermon on the Mount.

Back in Germany, Bonhoeffer joined the German Resistance working to remove Hitler from power. He sought help from Winston Churchill and England but none came. While working for the Resistance, he became engaged but the couple chose to put off a wedding until the Nazis were no longer in power.

Bonhoeffer ran out of luck as the Nazis learned of the Resistance movement and began to arrest its members, including the German theologian. In April 1943, the Nazis sent Bonhoeffer to military prison for two years. While in prison, he ministered to other prisoners and continued writing, becoming one of the most important Christian voices of the 20th century. The Nazis condemned Bonhoeffer to die in a concentration camp just before the end of the war. As he died, witnesses observed him in prayer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer died as he lived, steadfast in his faith even as he defied the government.

This is a complete biography of a great theologian. I never knew much about this individual, and enjoyed learning of his life and the trials he endured during the time of Adolf Hitler. For a good read about someone who fought Nazism and all it stood for, this is a good start.

About the Author

Judy Klamm is a reference librarian in Central Reference. She has written book reviews for Library Journal and various Presbyterian publications.

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What do you get when you combine a Florida health inspector, an unidentified hairy left arm, a crazy Bahamian voodoo witch, and a formerly famous primate with serious behavioral issues? You get Carl Hiaasen’s quirky mystery novel, Bad Monkey.

Set in South Florida, where much of Hiaasen’s writing takes place, one of Bad Monkey’s main characters is Andrew Yancy, a former Miami police officer busted down to Monroe County health inspector for attacking his ex-girlfriend’s husband with a portable vacuum cleaner. Yancy is discretely ordered by the sheriff to deliver an unidentified arm — complete with a hand stiffly flying its middle finger — to the Miami coroner’s office.

At first, nobody is interested in or wants to be responsible for the shark-mangled limb, which was fished out of the ocean by a shocked tourist, but Yancy has a gut feeling it is an omen for something big. When no one else claims possession of the severed arm, he takes it home and stores it in the freezer, right next to his favorite popsicles.

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Eventually the arm is identified as belonging to a man who perished in a recent boating accident, and Yancy returns the missing body part to the grieving widow for burial. Yancy doesn’t get a good feeling about the widow, however, and becomes convinced that she killed her husband and that he can solve the crime.

The mystery then moves to the Bahamas and a native man named Neville who has just had his land and home taken from him by a powerful American named Christopher who wants to build a huge resort on the property.

Neville decides to have a local voodoo witch put a curse on the evil American. In exchange, the witch demands that Neville give her his pet monkey, one of the only possessions he has left. The witch has no idea how bad the monkey’s behavior is, but before the end of the book - and to Neville’s amusement, she finds out first hand.

Eventually, Yancy’s story and Neville’s tale come together to form a darkly humorous plot that is filled with bizarre situations and satire. Along the way, every character exhibits inappropriate behavior, faces dangerous situations, and gets what they deserve in the end.

Without a doubt, Bad Monkey is a refreshing departure from a typical mystery novel with cardboard cutout characters and rehashed plots. This story moves along quickly and jumps from one absurd situation to the next seamlessly.

For as silly as the book can be, though, it does have some serious messages — even if they have been disguised with humor. First, Bad Monkey practically screams that man’s “development” of Florida’s beautiful wilderness is destroying it. Secondly, the novel demonstrates through character behavior that being greedy or craving anything “in excess” is dangerous and can make you do unbelievable things.

Overall, Bad Monkey is a solid light read and would make a great addition to your winter reading list. It does have a couple of minor plot issues that appear in its conclusion, but they do not detract from the enjoyment of the story.

If you read and like Bad Monkey, you may want to try Star Island, Nature Girl or Double Whammy, also by Carl Hiaasen.

Additionally, if you want to go even more extreme with offbeat humor, consider checking out one of the library’s titles by author Christopher Moore.

About the Author

Amy Morris

Amy Morris is a senior library technical assistant at the Westport Branch. She earned a B.A. in English, with an emphasis in creative writing, from Avila University. Besides reading and writing, Amy enjoys traveling, art, being creative, playing the piano and spending time with her family. She also writes her own blog at livingkansascity.blogspot.com

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My journey to parenthood is different from that of some of my friends and not so different from other friends. As a children’s librarian, I’ve been fascinated by the not-so-traditional books about childhood development, such as Nutureshock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, and books about kids, such as Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood by Susan Linn.

My husband and I are new parents through adoption. When we started the adoption process, I didn’t want to read many parenting books for fear of jinxing our chances of becoming parents. Once in a while a book would come along and it would pique my interest. Shortly after we brought our daughter home, a friend recommended Mei-Ling Hopgood’s How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting. I wasn’t prepared for what a fun and wild ride I was embarking on with this book.

I was intrigued by Hopgood’s book and How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm didn’t disappoint. It has the right amount of information about different countries and cultures without preaching that this or that culture does it so much better. The author also tries out each of the different things she learns with her own daughters its mixed results.

As Hopgood states: “We may or may not adopt what another family in another culture or place does, but we can take comfort in known that there is more than one good way to get a baby to sleep, transport her from place to place, and feed her....[T]here are many ways to be a good parent in the world.” Something all new and established parents need to be reminded of on those worst days.

I found it fascinating to travel around the world with the author learning about Argentinian children who stay up quite late and don’t seem to have some of the sleeping issues I hear about so much from friends. Children in Argentina stay up until midnight, are welcomed at adult parties and even the fanciest restaurants. It’s not unusual for a child to fall asleep on the couch at a friends’ house or while out at a nice restaurant. Then they wake up around 8 a.m. and are off to school without too much fanfare. The author was concerned that this schedule might not be best for her daughter. She consulted experts who said that Americans could stand to be a little less concerned about getting their children on strict sleep schedules. With an eight week old, I decided to try to be more relaxed about getting our daughter to bed at night and it’s made our whole family less stressed.

Most parents want their child to eat well. My husband and I hope to pass on our love of food to our daughter. She may be the only child at school who has Indian food for lunch one day and Thai curry the next. I seriously doubt she’ll be eating quite the same foods the French children eat at school. The French have passed on their great love of good, rich food to their children. There are no kids’ menus in France, the kids eat what is placed in front of them and there isn’t a fight about it. Even at school, kids eat fresh vegetables and exquisitely prepared meals.

Two of my favorite chapters were about Kenyans not using strollers and how the Chinese potty train their children. Kenyan streets will not accommodate a stroller that’s become almost a necessity in the U.S. Most parents of young children don’t think of leaving the house without a stroller. Many new American parents research the best stroller to meet their needs and lifestyle. Instead, Kenyans and many traditional cultures are the masters of baby wearing. They use long pieces of cotton tied into slings to carry their babies, very similar to some of the baby carriers available in the U.S.

The chapter on Chinese potty training was one of the funniest chapters of the book. I had no idea that Chinese split pants even existed. They are how Chinese parents begin to potty train their children at six months old. These pants are literally split in the crotch allowing for children to squat and use the bathroom almost anywhere. (You must look them up!) The pants are very environmentally friendly but are losing their favor for disposable diapers as China becomes more of an industrialized country. Hopgood tries out the pants with some success. I’m intrigued but not sure our house or us are prepared to try them out.

And, how do Eskimos keep their babies warm, you might ask? The traditional Inuit carrier is made from animal skins and the baby is cradled next to it’s mother in a large, furry hood-like compartment. Mothers are able to nurse their babies in this carrier just by moving them from the back to the front.

About the Author

Erica Voell

Erica Voell is the Youth Collection Development Librarian at the Kansas City Public Library. She enjoys gardening, sewing, knitting, seeking out gluten-free vegetarian cuisine around the city - and yes, being a good librarian, she is owned by a cat.

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Due to the snow this event has been rescheduled for March 4th!

This is an all day trip where you will tour the capitol and meet with your representatives to make REAL CHANGE!

Librarians, library trustees and friends from across Missouri come together for the Missouri Library Association's Advocacy Day to meet with State Representatives and Senators to discuss the importance of all libraries and their contributions to the lives of Missourians.

Food will be provided and we are happy to verify the trip with your school administration.

A completed permission slip is required to attend.

For more information, please email wickthomas@kclibrary.org.

What holiday coming up is filled with dragon dances, fire-crackers, long-noodles, and gifts of red envelopes filled with money? Chinese New Year! There multiple choices for those who want to celebrate this holiday via the power of books. Here are a few festive options:

According to Chase’s Calendar of Events, 2014 edition, the Year of the Horse begins on January 31st and the New Year's celebration lasts for fifteen days.

The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine and illustrated by Sebastia Serra. This is a tale of a young boy named Ming and his magical wok. This cooking pan looks rusty and lacks a handle, but it is definitely special. The story has elements that mimic the tales of The Gingerbread Man, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Robin Hood. While the moral obviously warns against greed, the overall tone of the book is joyous. At the end of the book, Compestine writes that people celebrate this holiday, also known as The Spring Festival, in the ways described in the first paragraph of this blog. The author also includes a recipe for stir-fried rice.

On a more serious note, some families are only all together during the Chinese New Year. A New Year’s Reunion by Yu Li-Quiong with pictures by Zhu Cheng-Liang chronicles a young girl’s special time with her father. He travels for work and is only with her and her mother during the New Year Festival. A note at the end tells that, while this particular book is fictional, the situation really exists for millions of Chinese families. Curl up to share this tender story with your loved ones.


Another book, The Race for the Chinese Zodiac, details a myth about how the Chinese zodiac’s twelve-year cycle came to have a particular animal represent each year. Thirteen animals race to cross a river. Winners will earn a year named for them. Twelve animals succeed in reaching the finish line early enough for the heavenly ruler known as the Jade Emperor to reward them. The end of the book details the traits of each animal said to carry onto the children born during a given year. To experience this story that reads like folklore punctuated by watercolor illustrations and Chinese symbols, check out The Race for the Chinese Zodiac by Gabrielle Wang with pictures by Sally Rippin.

May you enjoy this Year of the Horse! May these books help you welcome it. May happiness and prosperity be yours as the moon rotates around the earth yet again.

About the Author

Anna Francesca Garcia is the education librarian for the Kansas City Public Library. She has worked at libraries in Nevada and Missouri for nine years. She earned her Master of Library and Information Sciences from the University of North Texas. As Chinese culture is not one with which she grew up, Anna Francesca is grateful for books, festivals, and food that have helped introduce her to the rich history of China. She shares what she learns with her six-year-old daughter.

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A personal memoir carries a glance into American history. Illustrate this story as a graphic novel. When these elements blend, it takes readers back in time. Here, we travel sixty years. We join those central to the Civil Rights movement, watch the sit-ins, and ask ourselves, “Do I have the courage that they did?”

Graphic Novel + Civil Rights History= March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

In this book, Congressman John Lewis tells about his youth, from a rural childhood preaching to chickens to leading a large anti-violence movement against segregation as a young college student. There are also flashes forward to the Million Man March in 2009 when Lewis, now a senior citizen and prominent congressman, prepares to march in the snow. It demonstrates both his role as a community leader and his perseverance. Nothing is going to keep him from acting on his beliefs, including frigid temperatures and snow.

This book is great for starting discussions. Here are a few topics to consider:

1. How did Lewis apply his religious convictions to his actions?
2. What effect did taking the road trip with Uncle Otis have on Lewis’s outlook?
3. When did Lewis meet Martin Luther King, Jr. and why?
4. How did Lewis’s family react to the possible backlash over his activism?
5. What was the point of the sit-ins, and did they work?
6. What were some of the responses of police, judges, and government officials to the insistence that blacks and whites have equal access to public amenities?
7. Do you agree with Thurgood Marshall’s restrained approach or the more direct way that Lewis dealt with issues?

I am curious about what March: Book Two will include. This story, aside from the flashes forward ends in 1960. Of course, the real history stretches far beyond this. Of course I can read more about the Civil Rights movement on my own, but I would like to see how Lewis and Aydin tell it and how Powell puts it to pictures. You can bet that, when we have the book available at the Library, I will be on the hold list. I hope to be in that line with many of you.

About the Author

Anna Francesca Garcia is the education librarian for the Kansas City Public Library. She has worked at libraries in Nevada and Missouri for nine years. She earned her Master of Library and Information Sciences from the University of North Texas five years ago. In learning about her Jewish heritage, Anna grew up hearing how Abraham Joshua Heschel marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., and admires the bravery Heschel showed in standing by his brothers. While Anna’s six-year-old daughter knows about Martin Luther King, Jr., Anna is using books to teach her that many more people worked to bring about racial equality, and there is still more to do.

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After a rather heavy 2013, full of some imposing works of biography, I thought it would be good to relax in 2014. And so, we’ll look at mystery novels this year.

Mystery novels can be divided into three broad areas:

  1. Cozy (little blood and lots of ratiocination), sometimes called the “classic” or the “English manor house.”
  2. Hard-boiled (PIs, dangerous dames, and a violent world).
  3. Police procedurals (the machinery of detection in action).


Over the course of the year, I’ll be looking at 4 examples of each.

To begin, I think we have to look at Sherlock Holmes, the great granddaddy of the cozy mystery, and a figure that each generation seems to need to revisit (most recently in Jeremy Brett’s TV and Robert Downey, Jr.’s film portrayals, as well as Benedict Cumberbach’s [Sherlock] and Jonny Lee Miller’s [Elementary] updated TV portrayals [depicting a new Holmes for the 21st c.], as well as numerous recreations in print [see especially Laurie King’s novels of the retired Holmes and Mary Russell, beginning with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice]).

Doyle did not invent the detective story (that honor goes to Edgar Allen Poe and his detective, C. Auguste Dupin) or the mystery novel (that honor is generally given to Wilkie Collins and his novel, The Moonstone), but he did establish something of a template in his stories of the brilliant, but quirky, Holmes, and in stories of detection narrated by a less brilliant friend, in this case Dr. John H. Watson, M.D. (NOTE: most of the Conan Doyle Holmes stories are narrated by Watson, but a few late stories are narrated by Holmes himself, and one [“The Last Bow”] is told in the 3rd person).

Doyle first introduced the character in the novel, A Study in Scarlet, which first appeared in the Beeton’s Christmas Annual (1887). Doyle was fortunate to have Sidney Paget as illustrator for the stories, and I heartily recommend you approach the work (or any of the Holmes canon) by checking out The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, ed. by William Baring-Gould, which features the Paget illustrations as well as lots of great marginalia about the Victorian world, information about historical and cultural references which needed no explanation in their day, but which are often lost on us now.

In A Study in Scarlet, we have two mysteries to consider:

  1. Who has killed Enoch Drebber, a wealthy American traveling in Europe (also how was he killed and why)?
  2. Who is Sherlock Holmes?

The novel is written (as are the other 3 novels, and most of the stories) from the perspective of Dr. Watson, an army surgeon, returned to London to recover from wounds sustained in the 2nd Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880). And if Holmes is trying to solve the murder of Drebber, Watson is equally determined to figure out his mysterious flatmate.

At one point in the novel, Watson puts together a list of strengths and weaknesses in Holmes’ knowledge base. The areas where Holmes is deficient include literature, philosophy, and astronomy. Holmes, for instance, does not know, or care, that the earth revolves around the sun, and when Watson tells him this is so, Holmes swears that he will soon forget it. Holmes compares his brain to an attic—a neat attic with only necessary items is to be preferred to one cluttered and full of all sorts of unnecessary junk. The solar system and the recent discovery of Uranus are useless for solving crimes, and so, they take no place in Holmes’ attic. Chemistry, biology, the law, and other useful areas, are quite well known by Holmes, who, we also find out, has written a monograph on different types of cigar ash.

Holmes was based on a medical professor Doyle studied under at the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Joseph Bell. Bell apparently amazed his students with his ability to both see and observe, and he encouraged the students to enhance their abilities in observation.

This novel is not the best of the Holmes’ canon. Holmes generally shines best in the short stories, especially those contained in the collections, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is only in a little less than half of the novel. The second half of this novel is given to narration by the killer as he explains why he killed Drebber. But the novel does give us a glimpse of that “historic” moment when Watson first met Holmes, and, for that, it is well worth a look.

I would also recommend that anyone taking up any sustained reading of Holmes stories visit the site of the Baker Street Irregulars. This group, founded in 1934 by Christopher Morley, meets annually in New York City and provides a wealth of information for anyone wishing to “play the game” (treating the Holmes stories as if referring to a real person, and trying to resolve differences in the stories).

About the Author

Bernard Norcott-Mahany, a library technical assistant at the Lucile H. Bluford Branch, is our resident connoisseur of classic literature. He is also the leader of the Black Classics and In the Heat of the Night book groups.

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When I was in high school, I went to see the Broadway musical, 1776, then playing at the Wilbur Theater on Boylston Street in Boston. The musical number I found most affecting was the love duet between John and Abigail Adams entitled “Yours, Yours, Yours” – you can see the video clip of that scene from the film on YouTube.

Set up as an exchange of letters between John Adams and his wife, the number is loosely based on some of the correspondence between the two in the year 1776. John, a delegate at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, maintained a regular correspondence with his wife, Abigail, who was not happy with, but had gotten used to, his long absences on the business of the emerging nation. A sucker for songs of absence, I was especially moved by this number, and that number, more than anything else in the show, really brought home to me the power of words and letters.

Recalling that number years later, when I was getting married for the first time, I had hoped to find some beautiful letter from John to Abigail, or vice versa, to include among the readings at the wedding. Patti and I were eager to avoid having only biblical readings in our service. There was no Internet at the time, and the Chicago Public Library did not have much of the correspondence of John Adams, and what little I could find – well, let’s just say it was not particularly romantic.

Well, jump ahead another 30 years, and I still find myself fascinated with the correspondence between John Adams and his lady. I remember when My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams came out (in 2007) that I wanted to be sure to read the book. It is not the first collection of the correspondence between the Adamses. There is the collection of the complete correspondence of John Adams, which numbers over 100 volumes – John was a man who liked to debate ideas, and who knew the most powerful and influential people of his day, so there are many and weighty letters on all sorts of subject, but primarily of a philosophical and political bent. There have been three collections of selected letters between Adams and his wife, the first edited by Charles Francis Adams, grandson of John Adams, which came out in 1876 in honor of the country’s centennial, the second edited by Lyman Butterfield, who oversaw the editing of the complete correspondence, and this current volume. This collection contains 289 letters covering the entirety of the relationship between John and Abigail (1762-1818), and it retains the original spelling (neither Adams was known for uniform spelling – the concept as we now have it did not yet exist). Joseph Ellis, in a brief introduction, says this about the edition: “This selection is the most judicious, most revealing, and most comprehensive ever published.” As it covers the entire period of their relationship, this is the most complete selection of letters.

And the letters are quite revealing. The patient Abigail is often trying to calm down her rather thin-skinned husband (for a man who made his life in politics, John is a strangely sensitive and impatient man). In the letters after 1796, both she and he share all sorts of negative comments about Thomas Jefferson, whom they had considered a friend, but who was far too partisan a politician for the Adamses. And as is fitting for a New England couple of the 18th c., the Adamses are very much convinced of the rightness of their attitude and their actions which leads to a certain rigidity.

The letters show great tenderness when it is called for – enduring one pregnancy alone, Abigail has premonitions about a miscarriage and has to endure the joys turned sorrow when those premonitions prove true. In her letters to John, we can see her great strength in enduring the sorrow, but also her vulnerability, while John’s letters show him most sympathetic to the signals his wife is sending, and responding accordingly. As we now live in a world of instant communication, it is common to maintain an epistolary conversation, but in 18th c. America, you could not count on your letter getting to its destination—this was especially true during the war—and it be weeks or months before a question was answered. And as they could not count on their correspondent receiving their letters in a timely manner, the letters often had the form of essays on various topics and were often quite reflective in nature, and were not focused so much on particulars that required prompt replies.

For the most part, John and Abigail, though very much a loving couple, were not a demonstrative couple – there are no poetic flights of fancy here (which is why I searched in vain all those years ago for the letter that would fit a wedding service). But we have a true marriage of equals here, at a time when that could not be said of many couples. Abigail uses her pen to advocate for greater rights for women in the new Republic (“Remember the ladies” she admonishes him), a request that John politely hears, but on which he does not act (it is 1776, after all).

But for all the judiciousness of their selection, I have to say I was a bit disappointed in the lack of annotation in the book. Both Adamses mention a lot of names in their letters, and having some annotation as to who those named are would make for a better reading experience. For what makes these letters especially valuable is that we have two people at the highest levels of influence in Revolutionary America, but that value is lost if the general reader (the intended audience of this collection) doesn’t know many of the names.

About the Author

Bernard Norcott-Mahany, a library technical assistant at the Lucile H. Bluford Branch, is our resident connoisseur of classic literature. He is also the leader of the Black Classics and In the Heat of the Night book groups.

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Can You Say Peace? by Karen Katz.
Using her trademark style, Katz creates colorful children. They have typical physical characteristics for people from a number of cultures, and facing pages feature scenes depicting their home countries. Each page says the name (which would be a typical one for the features part of the world) of the character and the child’s country of origin. Under the child, Katz writes the word for “Peace” in the language of the country. She also shows how to say the word. At the end of the book, there is a page that states the languages featured and also lists other terms for “Peace.” This colorful book does not offend since each child lives in the featured country instead of being its sole representative. It is a warm read for young kids and their caregivers to share.

I Am the World by Charles R. Smith, Jr.
This book features beautiful photographs of children and teenagers. Each represents what appears to be his or her culture. There is pride in each heritage without in any way diminishing the others. At the end, a glossary identifies all of the cultural terms and their countries of origin. Although more realistic than Katz’s book, this text is straight-forward enough to make sense to preschool children and to work well with elementary-aged kids, too. The message is clear and encouraging.

One World, One Day by Barbara Kerley
This book also features photographs, although they come from the cameras of many National Geographic professionals. The book itself chronicles a day from waking to sleeping which details coming from all around the world. As different as some of the experiences are, the text flows seamlessly. It is at a level that people aged 3 and up will understand and enjoy. For older readers, there is a detailed description of each photograph, including its location and context.

Both Can You Say Peace? and One World, One Day feature world maps at the end with the locations featured highlighted. I am the World instead has a variety of maps on its end papers. These books all show that multiculturalism is about celebrating what makes us unique while also appreciating the ways that we are the same. I love how Barbara Kerley put it in her letter at the end of One World, One Day: “The more that we can embrace our commonality, the more tolerant we can be of our differences.”

About the Author

Anna Francesca Garcia is the education librarian for the Kansas City Public Library. She has worked at libraries in Nevada and Missouri for nine years. She earned her Master of Library and Information Sciences from the University of North Texas. Learning French, Hebrew, and Spanish have opened worlds to her that she never would have imagined before. Merci, todah, gracias, and thank you for reading this.

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Can teens make a difference? Anyone who says “no” hasn’t heard of Malala Yousafzai.

The sixteen year survived a bullet to her head a little over a year ago. Why? She spoke out about the importance of girls being educated, something that the Taliban did not allow. Now that she is out of the hospital and living in England, she continues vocally attesting to girls’ right to attend school.

If you want to know more about this remarkable young woman, you can read about her in the International section of Junior Scholastic’s December 2013 issue, available at Kansas City Public Library locations.

You can also find this article and more on our Middle Search Plus database — one of our many Homework Help resources.

For more detail about Malala’s life and politics in Pakistan, check out the new young adult book Malala Yousafzai: Education Activist by Rebecca Rowell.

About the Author

Anna Francesca Garcia is the education librarian for the Kansas City Public Library. She has worked at libraries in Nevada and Missouri for nine years. She earned her Master of Library and Information Sciences from the University of North Texas.

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Best known for his book, Winter’s Bone, Missouri author Daniel Woodrell’s new novel, The Maid’s Version, contains all the elements that make his writing truly unique, powerful, and intriguing.

Flashing back to 1929 and the small town of West Table, Missouri, The Maid’s Version, centers around Alma DeGeer Dunahew, a domestic servant for one of the more prominent families in town, and a mysterious explosion at the local dance hall which instantly kills forty-two of the area’s residents — including Alma’s scandalous sister Ruby.

Alma and many of the townspeople feel the calamity was not an accident, but a purposeful act of malice, and throughout the book, different possibilities about who might have been responsible for such an evil deed are explored.

Interestingly, the tragedy in The Maid’s Version is based on a real-life incident and possible unsolved crime that happened in West Plains, Missouri in 1928, which is Daniel Woodrell’s hometown. In fact, his family has a burial plot just 50 feet from the memorial to the unidentified victims of that catastrophic explosion.

The Maid’s Version is only 164 pages in length, almost novella sized, but it is not a quick or easy read. It delves deeply into a community’s secrets, mistrust, anger, and heartbreak. It is also heavy with themes that Woodrell commonly explores in his writing — including hardship, economic/class division, and social consciousness.

Additionally, some might accuse The Maid’s Version of meandering at times in its story development, but what it is really doing is skillfully unpeeling the layers of a small Ozark town one character at a time, often in an uncomfortable manner because the residents of West Table are not “feel-good” people. They are suspicious, complex, and appear very hard around the edges — just like the novel.

With an obvious tension, The Maid’s Version unfolds in a way that requires your complete attention. As you turn each page, you learn disturbing details about different townsfolk, their histories, their possible motives for committing the crime, and the effects that the horrific event has had on them and their descendants, even more than 80 years later.

By the end, The Maid’s Version successfully and lyrically intertwines possible reasons for the horrific explosion with the deep-rooted relationships among local families and the community until it overlaps with the story of what Alma believes truly happened on that dreadful evening.

Although The Maid’s Version won’t necessarily leave you feeling content, happy, or even satisfied at its conclusion, it is a good example of skilled literary fiction and a beautiful writing style that easily transports you into the Missouri Ozarks and into the harsh lives of the characters. You can almost physically feel their pain, anguish, and attempt at healing as they struggle to deal with a tragedy that scars them and their town forever.

Daniel Woodrell is originally from West Plains, Missouri, a former Marine, and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. The Maid's Version is his ninth novel. His first collection of stories, The Outlaw Album, was published in 2011, and he enjoys living in the Missouri Ozarks where he is contemplating his next novel.




About the Author

Amy Morris

Amy Morris is a librarian technical assistant at the Westport Branch. She earned a B.A. in English, with an emphasis in creative writing, from Avila University. Besides reading and writing, Amy enjoys traveling, art, being creative, and spending time with her family. She also writes her own blog at livingkansascity.blogspot.com

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Get ready to go an epic adventure with the Bone cousins in Jeff Smith’s graphic novel series, Bone.

Bone is the magical adventure of 3 bone-looking cousins — Fone Bone, Smiley Bone, and Phoney Bone — and their new misadventures living in the Valley, after Phoney gets them ran out their hometown of Boneville. All hope seems lost for the Bones, until Fone Bone runs into Thorn, a generous and kind human teenager who lives with her Grandma Ben on a small farm. Thorn and Grandma Ben eventually take in the Bone cousins, even against the Valley people’s wishes. Weird things begin to happen in the Valley upon the Bones arrival and no one knows who to trust. Word is that the evil Lord of the Locusts is back and for some reason interested in the Bone cousins. No one knows why, not even the Bones!

Everything in the Valley seems to be changing. Rat creature attacks are more frequent, Thorn keeps having strange dreams involving the Lord of the Locusts, and the dragons have reappeared after decades of hiding. The Valley has its secrets. Maybe there is a lot more to everyone than meets the eye … With time running short and the Lord of Locusts becoming more powerful every day, it’s up to Thorn and the Bones to search for clues and uncover the mystery that entangles them all.

Bone has great character development and hilarious writing. Each character's voice is so unique to the story, and crafted with delicate precision, that no two are written alike. One of my favorites is a Valley-wise, leaf-shaped bug with a country twang, named simply Ted. He has the ability — because he’s a bug — to travel through the forest undetected and help spread information to his friends when they need. In addition are two hilariously-incompetent rat creatures whose main desire is cook up Fone Bone into a quiche. Rat creatures in general are one of the main enemies that the Bones cousins encounter. These two are conflicted because they are hardcore rat creatures that want to eat a flaky pastry, an ongoing joke throughout the series.

With many other fun characters throughout the Bone universe, we saddle up for this fantastical, western-style adventure that involves, dragons, magic, talking critters, cow races, rat creatures, and a war with an evil so unstoppable, it pushes our main characters to very edge of their existence, almost literally. Bone is great for anyone into adventure, quests, and magic. I read Bone for the first time when I was 13 years old, again when I was 23 and it was still as exciting as the first read! With both detailed story and amazing illustrations, Bone will have you wanting to know more about these characters and their fascinating adventures.

About the Author

Shaun Teamer

Shaun Teamer is a creator and storyteller. He enjoys drawing, reading, animating and shooting videos. Shaun is currently a youth associate at the Kansas City Central Library.

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School children throughout the United States learn about the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Historians now claim that Leif Ericson first reached North America hundreds of years before Columbus. What is the story of Columbus?

Laurence Bergreen in Columbus: The Four Voyages provides an in depth look at Columbus and his explorations of the New World. The Italian born Columbus grew up in Genoa, a port city of the Mediterranean Sea. He learned navigation and traveled on several sea voyages early in his life. He settled for a time in Portugal, then was a leader in maritime exploration. The exploits of Marco Polo fascinated Columbus, who dreamed of finding an opposite route to China and India and the accompanying acclaim. He sought funding for such a venture from the Portuguese king, but was refused. He then went to England and Spain looking for the necessary money. Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain agreed to his request.

With the sailing of Columbus to the West, Spain hoped to begin to build an empire. After thirty-three days at sea, Columbus and his crew found land in the Caribbean presumed to be San Salvador in the Bahamas. To his dying day, Columbus declared he had reached India, not an entire unknown continent and ocean between Europe and China. The explorer known as the "Admiral of the Ocean Sea" began to claim all of the land in the name of Spain. He expected to find gold and to bring Christianity to the native people.

On his first voyage, Columbus explored Cuba and the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic). He established a colony on Hispaniola before returning to Spain. Columbus reported on his adventures to the Spanish monarchs and then sailed back to the Indies. During his second trip, Columbus further explored the islands in the Caribbean expecting to locate China and India at any time. He worked with some success to build relations with the natives, but also used them as slaves and to collect money as a tribute to Spain. He continued to establish colonies as the start of the Spanish Empire.

Columbus went on to make two more journeys to the Americas. He explored the tip of South America and also traveled as far north as Central America. He never reached North America, but became intrigued with the Mayans and their advanced learning. Columbus had an autocratic manner and as governor of the Indies faced opposition. Other protested his leadership and tried to undermine his power. One person even confiscated his gold!

At one point, Columbus returned to Spain to protest the treatment of others. The Spanish monarchs restored his wealth and credibility. In returning to Spain for the final time, Columbus lost his ships to rot, and he became stranded on Jamaica for a year before rescue for him and his crew. He died in 1506 after years of courage in exploring new territory and establishing the Spanish Empire in the New World.

This is a good biography about Christopher Columbus. I knew that he “discovered” America, but not that he had made four journeys across the Atlantic Ocean. He had courage and fortitude for daring to cross the ocean, but his harsh demeanor with those around him led to problems. However, his exploits cannot be dismissed as he made possible the settlement of the New World and for the rise of America.

About the Author

Judy Klamm is a reference librarian in Central Reference. She has written book reviews for Library Journal and various Presbyterian publications.

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What is your Chocolate Me! story? Everyone has one!

In Chocolate Me! written by Taye Diggs and illustrated by Shane W. Evans, a young boy is teased by the kids in the neighborhood for his darker skin color. The young boy, upset and confused, then inquires to his mom, who tells him that we are all unique in our own way and we should embrace our differences, it’s the thing that makes us all special! Love your chocolate skin, for it is part of you! Chocolate Me! is all about finding your own sweet inside. It is about individuality, positivity and accepting each other’s differences.

In June 2012, I got the chance to do some work with Shane W. Evans, and during that time he asked me, “What is your chocolate me story?”

I wasn’t too sure what to say. I had a life story, sure, but was that what he wanted to hear? Was he asking me if I had read the book or did he just want me to tell him a story about candy? Instead, I pulled from my heart and just said what I felt. A story that encompassed my past, my present, and who I could become. It was a story that had triumphs and failures, compassion and reaction. Little did I know at the time, there was no right or wrong answer. Though through that question, it not only allowed me to do some internal searching, but some relationship searching as well. What is your chocolate me story? It is not a question about the black experience, or even necessarily a question about chocolate. Chocolate Me! is about the human experience and how it connects us all.

Chocolate Me! was Mr. Diggs specific story, but through that idea we can create a movement that showcases a deeper importance, which is that each and every child should get the chance to be heard and supported. Though our Chocolate Me! stories, we can learn more about ourselves and each other. What is your chocolate me story? Because everyone has one!

Shane W. Evans and the Chocolate Me Crew will be hosting “The Double Chocolate Me! Weekend Experience!” Two FREE events in KC for you and your family! Join us for a fun-filled afternoon featuring, music, discussion, poetry, performance, video and much more

Saturday December 7th, 2013 @ 2pm
Plaza Library Branch
Kansas City Truman Forum

RSVP Information Here

Sunday December 8th, 2013 @ 2pm
Nelson Atkins Museum
Nelson Auditorium and Bloch Lobby

Here are also some more great examples of books for young readers that deal with individuality, acceptance, and uniqueness.

What if your Best Friend were Blue? By Vera Kochan, Illustrated by Viviana Garofoli

Some Monsters are Different By David Milgrim

I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl By Betty K. Bynum, Illustrated Claire Armstrong Parod

About the Author

Shaun Teamer

Shaun Teamer is a dreamer and storyteller. He enjoys drawing, reading, animating and shooting videos. Shaun is currently a youth associate at the Kansas City Central Library.

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Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh began as a blog/webcomic in 2009. If you're a fan of her blog, I have no idea why you're reading a review of the book. You'll be picking up a copy no matter what I say. If you're not, here's a quick test: Go to this link.

I'll wait.

Did you find it funny? Or were you creeped out by her froggish MS Paint drawings and blond, party-hat hair? Because I can't lie: That is entirely what her book is.

It's a memoir from a woman in her 20s. She hasn't cured cancer, climbed Mount Everest while fighting a bear, or achieved any other accomplishments that society would find inspirational and uplifting. Instead, she has become famous for creating a blog with crude drawings and funny stories about her dogs, childhood, and battles with depression. You'll either love it or be completely confused.

Hyperbole and a Half: The Book is essentially Hyperbole and a Half: The Blog with about 50% more content. It's a quick, funny, and visceral read. If you've ever battled depression, or even sympathized with the idea that someone could be depressed, then you will love Allie Brosh. And not because her self-deprecating humor is hilarious (which it is), but because she makes it OK to laugh about it.

The first emotion that hits me when reading Brosh's stories is relief. I end up thinking, "Oh thank God. If she can be this open about her own life and find humor in what others would think were horrible situations, then it can't be so bad" and then I start laughing hysterically.

At one point in her memoir — between stories about eating an entire cake as a child and trying to determine if her "simple" dog is actually mentally challenged — she comes to the realization that she is suicidal and should probably ask for help. Her confession to her mother, that she doesn't so much want to kill herself but just become dead somehow, should be heartwrenching. And honestly it is, but mostly it's funny for just how ludicrous the entire situation becomes. In the process Brosh becomes more relatable and likable.

With the current publishing trend of books emerging from existing blogs, it can be hard to justify the cost of purchasing a copy (though really, isn't that why libraries exist?) but I feel that Hyperbole and a Half is worth it. There is just something about Brosh's gleefully absurd narrative style that I always find interesting, no matter how many times I read the same story.

If you'd like to take a look at Hyperbole and a Half, it is available in our Central Library's New & Notable collection. You can also put it on hold through regular Library checkout if you'd like to read Brosh's book at a more leisurely pace.

About the Author

Liesl Christman

Liesl Christman is the Digital Content Specialist for The Kansas City Public Library, managing content for the Library's blogs and social media accounts. She is an unabashed enthusiast of comic books, roller derby, and all things food.

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