Enjoy a few novels set in the Renaissance before the Kansas City Renaissance Festival starts on August 30, 2008. From mysteries to romances to art-inspired works of fiction, authors depict this influential era to great effect in these books.
Renaissance era Venice provides the backdrop for the novel Dirge for a Doge by Elizabeth Eyre. Signor Sigismondo, with the help of his faithful servant Benno, investigates the aristocrat Niccolo Ermolin’s murder. The list of suspects is long, more corpses appear, and a secret diary seems to hold some of the answers.
For a literary mystery that delves into the architecture and landscape of the Renaissance, try The Savage Garden by Mark Mills. Cambridge student Adam Banting travels to Tuscany in 1958 to study a famous Renaissance garden at the Villa Docci estate. He discovers a connection between the garden and two deaths: one in 1548, the other during World War II.
A classic mystery, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco revolves around a monk, William of Baskerville, investigating a death at an Italian monastery. More bizarre deaths occur as Brother William collects evidence that includes secret symbols and manuscripts.
Susan Vreeland, author of the best-selling book Girl in Hyacinth Blue, depicts the life and career of the Italian Renaissance artist Artemisia Gentileschi in the novel The Passion of Artemisia. Raped by an assistant of her father’s and humiliated in the subsequent public trial, Artemisia eventually becomes the first woman to be elected to the Accademia dell'Arte in Florence.
Leonardo's Swans by Karen Essex stars two very different sisters, Isabella and Beatrice, in Renaissance Italy engaged in rivalry over Beatrice’s husband. Isabella also wishes to sit for the court painter Leonardo da Vinci in this novel of art, intrigue, and politics.
Author Javier Sierra writes about a 15th century papal inquisitor investigating Leonardo da Vinci’s alleged heresy in the novel The Secret Supper. This book provides an alternate interpretation of the painting The Last Supper as the inquisitor looks for hidden codes and messages in this historical thriller.
Set in 16th century Venice, Loredana: A Venetian Tale by Lauro Martines stars two lovers, Loredana and Orso, an aristocratic widow and a Dominican friar. Richly imagined through letters, confessions, a diary, and other first-person accounts, this novel brings the time period to life.
In this well-crafted novel set in Renaissance Italy, Jacqueline Park's The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi depicts the courageous and introspective life of a Jewish gentlewoman married to the Pope’s physician and lover of a Christian knight. Written as her memoirs, this book combines romance and history with a fascinating story.
Finally, The Italian Garden by Judith Lennox tells the story of a 16th century painter, Joanna, who struggles as a female artist and then goes on to become a wife, a mistress, and a mother in this historical romance that includes many details of daily life during the Renaissance.
The Kansas City Public Library hosted two events in September that offered a look at the influence of Zimbabwe on international art. On September 4, 2008 at the Central Library, Roy Guthrie, the owner of Chapungu Sculpture Park, talked about how the troubled country of Zimbabwe became a destination for contemporary art collectors. On September 6, 2008 at the Plaza Branch, children enjoyed the works of a master stone carver from Zimbabwe as he chiseled stone into art. Explore the country and culture of Zimbabwe through these books or take a look at some news sources to learn more about current events in this nation.
By Alexander McCall Smith
Gathered here is a selection of folktales from Zimbabwe and Botswana as retold by best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith. Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and grew up hearing stories that so enchanted him, he passed them along to his own children. He now shares them in this book.
By Oyekan Owomoyela
Zimbabwe, formerly known as Rhodesia, won its independence from Great Britain in 1980 yet continues to feel the impact of Western lifestyles and prejudices. This accessible overview examines Zimbabwe, evoking the contemporary ways of life in this country.
By Christina Lamb
Through the parallel accounts of two people in Zimbabwe “ one a poor black maid, one a rich white farmer “ British journalist Lamb tells the compelling story of a country ravaged first by colonial settlers and now by brutal civil war. Based on interviews with Aqui and Nigel over many years, including 12 undercover trips since 2002, Lamb recounts the country's recent history.
By Wendy Kann
In this poignant, lyric memoir, a sister's tragic death prompts a woman's unbidden journey into her turbulent African past in colonial Rhodesia “ now Zimbabwe “ as she explores the heartbreak of loss and belonging, and finally discovers the true meaning of home.
By Peter Godwin
A son returns to Africa to uncover the secrets of his family and his home. Bearing witness to Zimbabwe's dramatic spiral downwards, Godwin discovers why Africa was his father's sanctuary from another identity and why his family chose to stay amidst the chaos.
By Doris Lessing
Author Doris Lessing recounts visits to her homeland, Zimbabwe, 25 years after her exile from old Southern Rhodesia for opposing the minority white government.
By Andrew Meldrum
American-born journalist Andrew Meldrum was seized and expelled from Zimbabwe in May 2003, forced to leave for writing "bad things" about President Robert Mugabe's regime. Here, Meldrum describes what it meant to live through this period of hope and tragedy, and how he was harassed, arrested, imprisoned, and tried.
By Yvonne Vera
Butterfly Burning brought the poetic voice of Zimbabwean writer Yvonne Vera to American readers for the first time. Set in Makokoba, a black township, in the late 1940s, the novel is an intensely bittersweet love story. Vera captures the ebullience and bitterness to township life, as well as the strength and courage of her unforgettable heroine.
By J. Nozipo Maraire
Written as a letter from a Zimbabwean mother to her daughter, a student at Harvard, J. Nozipo Maraire evokes the moving story of a mother reaching out to her daughter to share the lessons life has taught her and bring the two closer than ever before.
By Yvonne Vera
Yvonne Vera's novels chronicle the lives of Zimbabwean women with extraordinary power and beauty. Without a Name and Under the Tongue, her two earliest novels, are set in the seventies during the guerrilla war against the white government.
Current news about Zimbabwe from BBC News.
World news about Zimbabwe from The New York Times.
A guide to the history, politics and economic background of Zimbabwe.
Book descriptions provided by BookLetters.
Celebrate the 125th anniversary of Coco Chanel’s birthday this week. Born on August 19, 1883, Chanel transformed the fashion industry and women’s clothing in the twentieth century. Discover why in one of these biographies, learn how fashion inspires creative fiction, or sit down and watch high fashion on film.
Coco Chanel comes to life in Axel Madsen's biography, Chanel: A Woman of Her Own. Madsen discusses Chanel’s personal history, business successes, affairs with influential men, and much more.
Chanel: Her Style and Her Life by Janet Wallach details the impact Coco Chanel had on fashion. She popularized the “little black dress” and women’s pants, brought us the fragrance Chanel No. 5 and men’s tailoring to women’s clothes. This book includes many photos, as well as an account of her entire life.
Authors Amy de la Haye and Shelley Tobin focus on the House of Chanel and Chanel as a couturiere in Chanel: The Couturiere at Work. This book covers her career, style, workroom, customers, and rivals with many illustrations.
Fashion in fiction
High fashion has long influenced novelists. Mary Gaitskill depicts this world in Veronica, a New York Times Notable Book. The narrator, Alison, now a ravaged shadow of the person she used to be, recollects her youth as a model in Paris and New York in the 1970s and 80s.
Candace Bushnell of Sex and the City fame weaves a story of three powerful New York City women in Lipstick Jungle. It opens at a fashion show in Bryant Park and further explores the career of fashion designer Victory Ford, as well as her friends: Wendy, a movie executive, and Nico, a magazine editor-in-chief.
In The Painted Kiss, Elizabeth Hickey bases her novel on two historical figures, the artist Gustav Klimt and Emilie Floge, the owner of a Viennese fashion house. Taking place at the turn of the twentieth century and during World War II, this book imagines the relationship behind an artist and his longtime companion.
Fashion on film
Although you can’t read these DVDs, you can check them out from the library. For a high fashion romance featuring gowns designed by Coco Chanel, watch Last Year at Marienbad (1961). Nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards*, this French movie depicts a stranger who tries to convince an unnamed woman that they had an affair one year earlier.
A comedic look at the fashion industry, The Devil Wears Prada (2006) features an Oscar-nominated performance by Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly, the cutthroat editor of a fashion magazine. Idealistic Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) gets her first job out of college as the second assistant to Ms. Priestly and struggles to stay in control of her life.
Finally, Project Runway (2004-), the Emmy award-winning reality TV show, takes unknown fashion designers through multiple fashion challenges until only the best designer is left. Each episode showcases the creative design process from drawing board to runway.
* OSCAR®, ACADEMY AWARDS®, and the ‘Oscar’ Statuette are registered trademarks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
On August 28, 2008 at the Plaza Branch, Tom Bloch discussed his new book, 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. Explore a few books or movies about urban education, the charter school movement, or how to make your own career change.
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 an impoverished inner-city school in Kansas City. Bloch tells what it was like struggling to make a difference to his students.
Lessons to Learn: Voices from the Front Lines of Teach For America
By Molly Ness
A unique inside look at Teach for America. Combines interviews and essays from Teach for America members, alumni, school principals, superintendents, parents and noted education experts
And Still We Rise: The Trials and Triumphs of Twelve Gifted Inner-City High School Students
By Miles Corwin
Author and journalist Miles Corwin offers a masterfully reported and elegantly written chronicle of an exceptional inner-city high school class, Crenshaw High School in South Central Los Angeles.
One Day, All Children--: The Unlikely Triumph of Teach For America and What I Learned Along the Way
By Wendy Kopp
Not just a personal memoir, this is a blueprint for a new civil rights movement that demands educational access and opportunity for all American children.
The Education Gap: Vouchers and Urban Schools
By William G. Howell, Paul E. Peterson
The voucher debate has been both intense and ideologically polarizing, in good part because so little is known about how voucher programs operate in practice. In this book, William Howell and Paul Peterson report new findings drawn from a comprehensive study on vouchers.
Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea, and the School That Beat the Odds
By Joanne Jacobs
Honest, engaging, and inspiring, Our School tells the story of Downtown College Prep, a public charter high school in San Jose that recruits underachieving students and promises to prepare them for four-year colleges and universities.
Expect Miracles: Charter Schools and the Politics of Hope and Despair
By Peter W. Cookson, Jr., and Kristina Berger
This book places the debate concerning the future of public education in a meaningful framework that allows the reader to ask new questions and seek genuine solutions.
Inside Charter Schools: The Paradox of Radical Decentralization
Edited by Bruce Fuller
Inside Charter Schools takes readers into six strikingly different schools, from an evangelical home-schooling charter in California to a back-to-basics charter in a black neighborhood in Lansing, Michigan. With a keen eye for human aspirations and dilemmas, the authors provide incisive analysis of the challenges and problems facing this young movement.
Charters, Vouchers, and Public Education
Edited by Paul E. Peterson and David E. Campbell
This volume brings together current empirical research on two important innovations reshaping American education today “ voucher programs and charter schools. With thorough summaries of the existing research and the legal issues facing school choice, this book will be key to readers who want to stay current with the burgeoning debates on vouchers and charter schools.
Learning from School Choice
Edited by Paul E. Peterson and Bryan C. Hassel
While educators, parents, and policy makers debate the pros and cons of school choice, it is now possible to learn from choice experiments in public, private, and charter schools across the country. This book examines the evidence from these early school choice programs and looks at the larger implications of choice and competition in education.
Choice with Equity
Edited by Paul T. Hill
The review of the national debate over school choice examines the benefits of choice for children, families, and schools “ and shows how properly designed choice programs can prevent the harmful outcomes opponents fear. Contributing writers include Paul Peterson, Eric Hanushek, Caroline Hoxby, and others.
Change Your Career: Transitioning to the Nonprofit Sector: Shifting Your Focus From Bottom Line to a Better World
By Laura Gassner Otting
How can you be certain that a new career is right for you? This book contains all the vital information that professionals will need to figure out if a career in the non-profit sector is right for them, and if it is, how to make a seamless transition into this sector.
Switching Careers: Career Changers Tell How and Why They Did It: Learn How You Can, Too
By Robert K. Otterbourg
Readers considering a career change can learn how to plan for a change, finance graduate or technical school, and launch a new business.
The 2008 What Color Is Your Parachute?: A Practical Manual For Job-Hunters And Career-Changers
By Richard Nelson Bolles
Still the bestselling job-hunting book and a favorite of career changers for more than three decades, this gold standard of career guides (Fortune) has been updated for 2008 with new examples, instructions, and cautionary advice.
Stand and Deliver (1988)
Jaime Escalante (Edward James Olmos), a math teacher at East Los Angeles' Garfield High School, refuses to write off his inner-city students as losers. Escalante pushes and inspires 18 students who were struggling with math to become math whizzes.
Freedom Writers (2007)
Hilary Swank stars as a young teacher who inspires her “at-risk” students in this moving drama based on true events. Erin Gruwell assigns her class an ambitious project: While studying works such as The Diary of Anne Frank, the kids keep journals about their troubled lives, applying history's lessons to break the cycle of violence and despair that threatens their futures.
Dangerous Minds (1995)
Louanne Johnson (Michelle Pfeiffer) is a former Marine turned inner-city high school teacher whose first assignment is a class of smart but tough students. As their new instructor, she defies all the rules and creates her own curriculum that includes cajoling and bribing the kids into learning.
Lean on Me (1989)
This feature film depicts the true story of Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman), the baseball bat-wielding principal who vows to clean up gang infested and drug ridden Eastside High with a tough love approach.
Book descriptions provided by BookLetters.
What inventions have you concocted in your basement? August is National Inventors Month, an event launched by the United Inventors Association of the USA, Inventors Digest, and the Academy of Applied Science in 1995 to help guide new inventors, inspire creativity, and promote the image of independent inventors. Read about some of the inventions that changed history and the people who created these innovations or take a break with a few novels featuring inventions in fiction.
With over 300 photographs, The Book of Inventions by Ian Harrison takes a trip through innovation history. Each invention receives a two-page spread and includes information about the inventor, as well as a photograph of the invention in use. The chapters are divided thematically, including “Around the House,” “At the Doctor’s,” “Eating and Drinking,” among others so you can learn all about the hair dryer, disposable syringes, and much more.
Over twenty years ago, urban planner Solly Angel had a vision of a miniature one-pound travel scale. Without any mechanical experience he embarked on a ten-year journey to bring this idea to market. The Tale of the Scale: An Odyssey of Invention provides a unique first-person account of this process.
Chiara Frugoni writes about the extraordinary innovations of the Middle Ages in Books, Banks, Buttons, and Other Inventions from the Middle Ages. With beautiful illustrations, this book provides an entertaining narrative to the things we take for granted, such as pasta, wheelbarrows, and clocks.
They Made America by Harold Evans profiles 70 inventors, men and women who changed the United States over the course of two hundred years. It includes famous inventors, such as Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, but also includes lesser known people like Ida Rosenthall (Maidenform bra) and Larry Page (Google).
Authors Ethlie Ann Vare and Greg Ptacek explore female innovators in Patently Female: From AZT to TV Dinners, Stories of Women Inventors and Their Breakthrough Ideas. Women invented the disposable diaper and the automatic dishwasher, but their innovations went beyond the home. Women also developed the first electric motor, the cordless phone, and much more.
Discover the inventions created by African Americans from the slave era to modern times in The Inventive Spirit of African Americans: Patented Ingenuity by Patricia Carter Sluby, a former U.S. patent examiner. Sluby writes about little known pioneers and inventions, such as a tobacoo substitute and a portable heart monitor.
A New York Times Notable Book, The Adventures of Miles and Isabel by Tom Gilling tells the story of two people born on the same day in Sydney, Australia in 1856. Miles and Isabel share a love of invention and flying as destiny brings them together in this fantastical novel.
Winner of the Caldecott Medal, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a graphic novel by Brian Selznick, is a fun read for any age. Hugo, a twelve-year old orphan, lives in a 1930s Paris train station where he takes care of the clocks. With cinematic detail, the plot revolves around an automaton that Hugo’s father discovered before he died and Hugo’s obsession with repairing the unique machine to discover a hidden message.
Paul Theroux writes about an eccentric and paranoid inventor in The Mosquito Coast. This novel tells the story of Allie Fox and his utopian experiment in a Honduran jungle with his family that goes dangerously awry.
Blue ribbons, carnival rides, cotton candy, and corn dogs... Its fair time! The Missouri State Fair takes place on August 7-17, 2008 in Sedalia. Get in the mood with these books that are fun for kids and parents alike.
Blue-Ribbon Henry by Mary Calhoun, illustrated with watercolor and pencil, tells the story of a Siamese cat, Henry, who visits the county fair. He encounters a charging pig and helps a lost girl find her mother, winning a “Pet of the Show” award for his bravery.
A fun loving hen visits a fair for the first time, mistaking it for a farm, in Minerva Louise at the Fairby Janet Morgan Stoeke. This bright and colorful picture book depicts Minerva Louise as she explores the fairground with wonder and adventure.
Rural America and a town fair set the backdrop for That Kookoory! by Margaret Walden Froehlich. Kookery the rooster excitedly travels to the fair as a hungry weasel follows behind. Colorful pen and ink illustrations delight.
In the Corgiville Fair, Caleb Corgi trains his goat for the big event at the fair “ the goat race. Experience the excitement of a town fair through the delightful text and watercolor illustrations in this picture book by Tasha Tudor.
Miss Raney Cloud aims to enter her delicious Sooner Biscuits in the county fair and win the blue ribbon, but encounters all kinds of trouble in Old Thunder and Miss Raney by Sharon Darrow. Miss Raney’s horse, Old Thunder, takes her to town to get more flour after her first batch burns and they get swept up in a tornado.
In this chapter book, Tooter adjusts to life on the farm and decides to win a blue ribbon for her goat, Pepperoni, at the county fair. Blue Ribbon Blues: A Tooter Tale by Jerry Spinelli features themes of friendship and competition with a humorous tone.
A Week at the Fair: A Country Celebration by Patricia Harrison Easton depicts a county fair in Pennsylvania through the eyes of a 12-year old girl, Kristen. Photographs illustrate the book as Kristen shows her hog and horse and has fun with her 4-H friends.
From start to finish, Fair! by Ted Lewin captures the sights and sounds of a county fair. From the midway carnival to the competitions to the animals, Lewin brings it all to life.
Judy Alter presents a history of fairs in Meet Me at the Fair: Country, State, and World's Fairs & Expositions. This book includes photos to illustrate the text and covers how these gatherings have changed and developed over time.
The U.S. government established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on July 29, 1958. Celebrate the 50th anniversary of this agency with these histories, memoirs and novels that depict the work of NASA, its astronauts, and space travel.
Begin with the awe-inspiring images published in America in Space: NASA's First Fifty Years edited by Steven J. Dick. With over 400 photographs, this coffee-table sized book chronicles the history of NASA visually. You’ll see the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions of the 1960s, images from the Space Shuttle era, and much more.
The twelve robot spacecrafts launched in the 1970s by NASA yielded an amazing amount of information about our solar system. Beyond the Moon: A Golden Age of Planetary Exploration, 1971-1978 by Robert S. Kraemer details the story of those at NASA who made this happen.
Flight director during the 1960s and later director of NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center from 1972 to 1982, Chris Kraft writes about his experiences in Flight: My Life in Mission Control. He provides an insider’s account of the work done within the agency to move space exploration and travel forward.
Norman Mailer writes about the Apollo 11 flight of 1969 in Of a Fire on the Moon. Published in 1970, this nonfiction work provides a unique perspective on the space race at the time it took place. Mailer covers NASA, the astronauts, the scientific concepts behind the technology, and the launch “ all with a very personal tone.
If you’d like an overview of the history of women in space, start with Almost Heaven: The Story of Women in Space by Bettyann Holtzmann Kevles. From the 1960s to the present, Kevles highlights the challenges women faced and profiles the women’s personal stories, placing them within their historical and cultural context.
Mike Mullane tells the story of his life in Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut. A member of the NASA class of 1978, Mullane flew on three missions between 1984 and 1990. With an entertaining style, he depicts what life was like for all astronauts.
Read about the first astronaut to orbit earth in John Glenn: A Memoir. This thrilling autobiography moves from Glenn’s small town childhood in Ohio to his combat missions as a fighter pilot in two wars to his experience as one of the original Mercury astronauts. He also writes of his years as a U.S. senator and finishes this gripping account with his final space flight at age 77.
Considered a classic, The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe chronicles the lives of the test pilots, specifically Chuck Yeager, and the original “Mercury Seven” astronauts: Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton.
Space travel in fiction
If all of these histories and memoirs have you yearning for a few good yarns about space travel, start with Moonrise by Ben Bova. Named the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Book by Library Journal, this novel depicts a future where development of outer space has been privatized. Most of the action takes place on the moon where one family works to create an inhabitable society.
It’s the year 2020 and former astronaut Reid Malenfant helps investigate possible alien robotic life in Manifold: Space by Stephen Baxter. This novel’s enormous scope moves across time and puts science at the center stage.
Winner of the Hugo Award, Nebula Award and others, the classic science fiction novel Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke won’t disappoint. A mysterious alien object appears in space and humans send a ship to investigate this craft, called Rama.
This Sunday, July 27, 2008 celebrate Parents' Day with a humorous and heart-felt memoir about parenthood or read the warm reflections of adult children writing about their mothers and fathers.
Writer and single mother Anne Lamott candidly chronicles her first year of motherhood in Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year. With humor, she shares the ups and downs of parenting with the help of her eccentric friends and family.
Daniel Glick writes about life as a single father after an unexpected divorce in Monkey Dancing: A Father, Two Kids, and a Journey to Witness the World's Vanishing Wonders. With his 13-year old son and 9-year old daughter, environmental reporter Glick travels the world for six months from Africa to Australia. Together, they view the natural world and cope with the changes in their lives.
In The Big Turn-Off: Confessions of a TV-Addicted Mom Trying to Raise a TV-Free Kid, Ellen Currey-Wilson writes with humor about her struggle to reduce the mainstream media’s influence in her house. She vows that her son will never watch any TV and she will quit her TV addiction. It’s never that easy, but their family relationships grow as television time is reduced.
Author Neal Pollack writes a witty memoir about his life as a hipster dad in Alternadad. Pollack makes the transition from party guy to responsible dad, without sacrificing his passion for pop culture.
Children reflect on their parents
In this poignant book, The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to his White Mother, James McBride reflects on race and identity while telling the story of his mother, Ruth McBride Jordan. Despite poverty and racism, she raises her twelve children to succeed in this inspirational memoir.
Haven Kimmel focuses on her mother as well in She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana. Delonda, Kimmel’s mother, decided to go to college, learn to drive, and lose over 100 pounds when Kimmel was a preteen. Her father resented these successes, and this humorous account entertains with a bittersweet tone.
The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates depicts the role Ta-Nehisi’s father played in his life and that of his brother Bill growing up in the inner city of Baltimore. A Vietnam vet, friend of the Black Panthers, and dedicated to sending his children to Howard University, Paul Coates helps his sons along the path to manhood.
Kansas City native Calvin Trillin writes an affectionate and humorous portrait of his dad in Messages from My Father. This stubborn and honest Midwest grocer made his way from Texas to Kansas City, dispensing advice and Yiddish curses while making sure his son went to Yale.