Explore books about urban education and the charter school movement in this related reading list for a series of presentations on What Works in Urban Education, co-hosted by Tom Bloch and Kansas City’s University Academy.

Urban education | Charter schools and school choice

Urban education

Stand For the Best book jacket

Stand For the Best: What I Learned After Leaving My Job as CEO of H&R Block to Become a Teacher and Founder of an Inner-City Charter School
By Thomas M. Bloch
Twelve years ago, Bloch was CEO of H&R Block, the world's largest tax-preparation firm. After much soul-searching, he resigned to become a math teacher in a Kansas City inner-city school. Bloch tells what it was like struggling to make a difference to his students.

Dig into the dirty past with a few books (and films) about the mob collected to complement the Missouri Valley Speakers Series on January 18, 2009 where Bill Ouseley presented the real story of combating and prosecuting organized crime in Kansas City. Ouseley is author of Open City: True Story of the KC Crime Family, 1900-1950.

Organized Crime | Union Station Massacre | F.B.I. | KC Mafia in the Movies

Organized Crime

 True Story of the KC Crime Family 1900-1950 book jacket

Open City: True Story of the KC Crime Family 1900-1950
By William Ouseley
This book tells the story of organized crime in Kansas City during the first half of the twentieth century from the "Black Hand" to prohibition to La Cosa Nostra. It is written by a 21-year veteran of the FBI Organized Crime Squad.

On January 14, 2009, author and historian Michael Elliott will discuss his new book Custerology: The Enduring Legacy of the Indian Wars and George Armstrong Custer at the Plaza Branch. Explore these books about this famous military commander, the battle known as “Custer’s Last Stand,” or the Oglala Lakota people.

George Armstrong Custer | The Battle of Little Bighorn | Oglala Lakota

George Armstrong Custer

 The Enduring Legacy of the Indian Wars and George Armstrong Custer book jacket

Custerology: The Enduring Legacy of the Indian Wars and George Armstrong Custer
By Michael A. Elliott
On a hot summer day in 1876, George Armstrong Custer led the Seventh Cavalry to the most famous defeat in U.S. military history. In this in-depth study, the author tackles the far more complicated question of why the battle of Little Bighorn retains such power for Americans today.

January 4, 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of Louis Braille’s birthday. This influential inventor was blinded at age 3 and went on to develop the Braille writing system, patterns of raised dots that can be read by touch. These books for kids tell Braille’s inspirational life story and describe what life is like for those who are blind.

A Picture Book of Louis Braille book jacket

For younger children, David A. Adler’s A Picture Book of Louis Braille introduces the life and work of this important Frenchman. With watercolor illustrations, the story moves from Braille’s childhood accident to his career at the National Institute for Blind Children and his development of the Braille writing system.

An ideal biography for kids in grades 3-8, Out of Darkness: The Story of Louis Braille by Russell Freedman tells the life story of Louis Braille, as well as presents the world of the blind before the invention of Braille writing.

Discussing plays in reading groups is both rewarding and frustrating. It’s rewarding since readers can go back to the stage directions and descriptions and speeches and reread them slowly or with more focus. It’s frustrating because sometimes no matter how often a passage is reread, the only way to understand it is to see it performed.

With the snow and ice swirling outside, curl up with one of these cozy holiday mysteries.

Award-winning children’s author Kate DiCamillo discussed her book The Tale of Despereaux, a delightful story of a mouse in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea, at the Plaza Branch on January 9, 2009. Discover the wonder of her acclaimed fiction for kids or check out a few literary mice scampering across the pages of other children’s novels.

The Kansas City Public Library is hosting events with three authors in January 2009 who have written cultural food histories. On January 6 at the Central Library, Ken Albala discusses Pancake: A Global History. Culinary historian Andrew Smith discusses Hamburger: A Global History on January 13 at the Plaza Branch. And on January 27 at the Central Library, Pierre Laszlo discusses his book Citrus: A History. Read one of these fascinating accounts of the pancake, hamburger, or citrus or check out another historical exploration of the food we eat.

Pancake: A Global History

Pancake: A Global History
By Ken Albala
Round, thin, and made of starchy batter cooked on a flat surface, it is a food that goes by many names: flapjack, crepe, and okonomiyaki, to name just a few. The pancake is a treasured food the world over, and now Ken Albala unearths the surprisingly rich history of pancakes and their sizzling goodness.

Do your digital devices, video games, and web surfing alienate you from the world or create new connections? On January 8, 2009, Eugene Halton will discuss his new book The Great Brain Suck and Other American Epiphanies which argues that Americans know less and less as our world becomes more saturated with media messages, materialism, and mobile devices. Here are a few other books on the topic.

Digital culture | Consumerism | How we think

Digital culture

The Age of American Unreason book jacket

The Age of American Unreason
By Susan Jacoby
Combining historical analysis with contemporary observation, Susan Jacoby dissects a new American cultural phenomenon---the addiction to infotainment, from television to the Internet, which she argues has resulted in a lazy and credulous public.

Author William Graebner will talk about his latest book, Patty’s Got a Gun: Patricia Hearst in 1970s America, on January 21, 2009 at the Central Library. These books include historical accounts of the Patty Hearst story, explorations of 1970s America, pictorial works of life at the time, as well as novels set during the 70s.

Patty Hearst | 1970s America | 1970s in Pictures | 1970s in Fiction

Derived from politics and advertising, slogans and catchphrases permeate American culture. On January 7, 2009, at the Central Library, Jan Van Meter will discuss his new book Tippecanoe and Tyler Too: Famous Slogans and Catchphrases in American History. Explore this book and others that tell the stories behind the expressions we hear and say.

 Famous Slogans and Catchphrases in American History book jacket

Tippecanoe and Tyler Too: Famous Slogans and Catchphrases in American History
By Jan R. Van Meter
In individual entries on slogans and catchphrases from the early seventeenth to the late twentieth century, Jan Van Meter reveals that each one is a living, malleable entity that has profoundly shaped and continues to influence our public culture.

Observed since 1963, Wright Brothers Day on December 17 marks the anniversary of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first manned flight near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17, 1903. What better way to appreciate the remarkable invention of the airplane than with a good book? Check out one of these biographies, histories, or memoir.

The Wright brothers

 The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight book jacket

Award-winning biographer James Tobin takes on the story of the Wright brothers in To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight. This narrative biography details their invention, personal relationships, and competitors.

The Wright Brothers Legacy: Orville and Wilbur Wright and Their Aeroplanes, by Walt Burton and Owen Findsen, presents the subject through photographs. Over 250 are included in this book that show the brothers’ experiments, flights, and air shows, as well as memorabilia and souvenirs.

Update:
The Philip Miller event on Dec. 28 has been canceled.

On December 28, 2008, at the Plaza Branch, Philip Miller will launch his sixth book of poetry, The Casablanca Fan. Called the “Godfather” of the Kansas City poetry scene, Miller was founder of The Riverfront Reading Series and a founding board member of The Writers Place. Check out Miller’s previous books or other books by local poets.

By Philip Miller | More poetry by local authors

By Philip Miller

Miller is the author of five previous collections of poetry including Cats in the House, Hard Freeze, From the Temperate Zone, and Branches Snapping, and Why We Love Our Cats & Dogs. He also co-edited the anthology Chance of a Ghost.

Branches Snapping
By Philip Miller

Hard Freeze
By Philip Miller

On December 10, 2008 at the Central Library, author Keith Gandal discussed his new book The Gun and the Pen: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner and the Fiction of Mobilization. Check out Gandal’s work, other literary criticism, or some postwar World War I novels by American writers.

Postwar novels by Hemingway, Fitzgerald & Faulkner | Literary criticism of postwar novels | More postwar World War I fiction

December 9, 2008 is the 400th anniversary of English poet John Milton’s birthday. Born in 1608, Milton wrote the epic poem Paradise Lost and had an enormous impact on English literature. Explore some of Milton’s work firsthand, read a biography of this influential man, or check out some fiction inspired by him.

By John Milton

Paradise Lost book jacket

John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, is considered by many to be the greatest in the English language. Originally published in 1667, this poem depicts the biblical story of the war between God and Satan and the fall of Adam and Eve.

Part of the Everyman Library Pocket Poets series, Milton: Poems contains a concise selection of his work, including sonnets and parts of Comus and Samson Agonistes.

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