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Stories of Imagination

by Allison Smith on November 28th, 2015

On March 12, 2015, one of my favorite authors died. On November 23, 2015, I finished reading the last book of his most famous series.

I’m a bit at a loss.

I’m speaking, of course, about the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett and his marvelous Discworld books, the last of which was published posthumously and I just finished reading it. There aren’t going to be any more of them ever. I will never find out about Moist von Lipwig’s next big challenge, or see if anyone ever tries to overthrow Lord Vetinari. I won’t see Young Sam grow up or see Sam Vimes retire from the Watch. I won’t know what happens with the witches, if Tiffany Aching and Preston finally settle down in the same place. It’s all a bit devastating.

But, I can always go back and visit them. Terry Pratchett left behind great stories of imagination, one of the most lasting legacies one can have. I can always go back to the Disc and visit my friends, and there are 41 novels, so I can stay there as long as I want.


A great reading guide from Krzysztof Kietzman

Now, discworld is an intimidating series to start. There are 41 books! But, there are a couple of ways that you can approach the series. You can read them chonologically, starting with The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic or you can start with any of the starter novels in the lovely graphic provided by an avid Pratchett fan.

I read them (mostly) chronologically, because that’s the way I roll, but you really don’t have to. Discworld is more of a universe in which stories take place instead of just a series. They are hilarious and they poke fun at everything from commonly used fantasy tropes to racism. As Terry Pratchett said “G.K Chesterton once said that the opposite of ‘funny’ is not ‘serious’; the opposite of ‘funny’ is ‘not funny’…” And that rings very true in all of his writing.

Included in the purple blobs in the lovely graphic is my favorite series within Discworld, the Tiffany Aching books. Tiffany grew up reading fairy tales and knew she could never be a princess since she was practical, and had brown hair and brown eyes, so she decided to become a witch. The Shepherd’s Crown, the very last Discworld book is a Tiffany Aching book, and it doesn’t tie up loose ends or end happily ever after. That isn’t Pratchett’s style. It ends like stories end in real life, with tons of unanswered questions of where to go next.

Check out Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series in Science Fiction on the first floor and the Tiffany Aching books in YA.

The Annotated Little Women / Louisa May Alcott (edited by John Matteson)

by Anne Mangano on November 25th, 2015
The Annotated Little Women / Louisa May Alcott (edited by John Matteson) Cover Image

I am always happy when an annotated edition of a work arrives at the library. I love the stories behind the stories, the tidbits, the facts, and the history of a book. We have a number of these editions at ICPL. But I am especially excited about the newly published The Annotated Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) edited by John Matteson. Matteson is known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Eden’s Outcasts, which focuses on the relationship between Louisa May Alcott and her father. In this annotated edition of Little Women, he weaves family and personal information, photographs and illustrations, geographical and historical references, as well as recipes into Alcott’s narrative. There is an 1844 recipe for beef tea, which Jo has to fetch when Mr. March surprises the family when he returns from the war. There are a number of May Alcott’s paintings and drawings throughout, including the Greek figures she drew on the walls of her bedroom at Orchard House. And there is a great deal of background information, from the tensions between the current established society and the new Irish and German immigrants in 19th-century New England to explanations of all the Charles Dickens’ references—and there are plenty.

Aside from Matteson’s annotations, it is also a beautiful edition in its own right. I love the way the publisher’s choose to print “The Pickwick Portfolio” with columns, different typeface, and bordering some of the text, giving it the feel of a 19th-century newspaper. There is also a great biographical essay on how the March family resembles the Alcott family and what events inspired the narrative. If you haven’t read Little Women in a while or would like to read it for the first time, this edition won’t disappoint.

Graduate from hand-shaped turkeys

by Stacey McKim on November 24th, 2015

If Thanksgiving has you fondly remembering the days of making hand-shaped turkeys out of construction paper, we have some new books about sculptural paper crafts that will take those skills to a new, more 3-D level.

papergoodsprojectsIn Paper Goods Projects, Jodi Levine (who has spent two decades on Martha Stewart’s staff) shows how to use ordinary materials like paper plates, cupcake liners, and cereal boxes to make brightly-colored flowers, animal sculptures, masks, cake toppers, mobiles, and more. Her previous book, Candy Aisle Crafts, was also full of inventive ideas suitable for both fun adults and families. In the introduction of Paper Goods Projects, Levine writes that transforming everyday supermarket supplies into whimsical works of art “helps us retain the youthful skill to see the potential in things.”

ilovepaper_eggsFor something more advanced, check out I Love Paper: Paper-Cutting Techniques and Templates for Amazing Toys, Sculptures, Props, and Costumes by Fideli Sundqvist. Subtle folding, creasing, and layering makes use of shadows to create surprisingly realistic results and elevate the pieces into art. If for any reason you’d like a paper version of a standard eggs-and-bacon breakfast (maybe looking ahead to April Fool’s Day 2016?), Mr. Sundqvist will give you a hand with step-by-step instructions and templates.

papercraftFor the practical crafters out there, try to catch the new Paper Craft book featuring DK’s reliably generous illustrations. With several ideas for accessorizing presents or making customized envelopes, it’s just in time for the holidays. And, if you’re taken by the paper quilling on the cover, you might also like the new Quilled Animals quilledanimalsbook by Diane Boden. Look at that alpaca. Aww.

In the era of 3-D printers, these projects seem especially quaint and honest.  Try your hand at paper sculpture with one of these books published in 2015.

It’s the end of the world as we know it!

by Brian Visser on November 23rd, 2015
It’s the end of the world as we know it! Cover Image

Are you prepared for the eventual collapse of society?  I see you slowly backing away from me, but wait!  Let me put away my tin foil hat and explain.  I was recently searching for a new book to read, preferably something non-fiction. (I always make a reading resolution to read more non-fiction, but I never do).  I stumbled upon a book called Lights Out by Ted Koppel.  Koppel wrote about the likelihood of a cyber-attack against the country’s power grid, and how we’re ill prepared for a lengthy blackout.  There would be no running water or means to refrigerate our food.  The smart phones that we use constantly would be useless within days.  Heavy stuff, right?  Also, Koppel investigated the federal government’s planned response for such an attack, and, apparently, there isn’t one.  So…we’re screwed.

I’m actually not all that worried about our impending doom, but it did get me to think about some common sense preparations in the case of a disaster, natural or otherwise.  While the government hasn’t planned for a power grid attack, it does have suggestions for general disaster preparedness.  The Department of Homeland Security created the Ready website to educate us on how to respond to emergencies, and, hopefully, raise the level of preparedness across America.  If you go to the website, you’ll see a “Navigation” link on the left.  If you click on that, it brings up the site’s content including an (almost) exhaustive list of the terrible things that could happen.  Space weather (!) is on this list.  Which–this gave me a chuckle–talks about damage to the electric grid, but not to the level that Koppel is worried about.

FEMA got in on the action (cause it’s their job) and made a Recommended Supplies List.  Honestly, I need to get my act together.  We don’t have most of the stuff on the list, and it definitely isn’t assembled into an Emergency Supply Kit.  Did you look at that list?  It says to consider having household chlorine bleach and a medicine dropper in your kit.  Why?  Because if things get super dire, you can use it to treat water to make it drinkable by using 16 drops of  liquid bleach per gallon of water.  I did some checking into this, and that’s basically what city water treatment does.  So, it won’t even taste weird.  Fun stuff!  If I sound like I’m making light of all this, I’m really not.  I think it’s smart to be prepared.  I’m going to start making my kit soon…Tomorrow, probably.  I’m sure I’ll get around to it sometime.

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

by Heidi Kuchta on November 19th, 2015

Hunger Brownstein

It has been an exceptional year for women-in-rock memoirs. Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band, Patti Smith’s M Train, and Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein have all come out in 2015. Brownstein’s story about how she went from suburban Seattle kid to Sleater Kinney rock guitarist and singer is engaging and funny, as one would expect if they have watched Portlandia. Brownstein definitely has a sense of humor, even about the darker and embarrassing stuff in her life. She starts the book talking about how the thread of music fandom has been the main current through her life – not musicianship, but fandom and a profound interest in performance and exploration. She writes well about nostalgia, particularly music-related nostalgia: the phenomenon of how albums from our formative years can bring us back to a particular time and place instantly, even while they don’t necessarily hold up sound-wise. There are many people who would like this book: Riot Grrrl history buffs, fans of rock and punk music, and people who enjoy watching Portlandia should check out Carrie Brownstein’s memoir. It’s worth the read!

Stuffing My Face with Awesomeness

by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on November 19th, 2015

I’m not going to be talking turkey especially after that whole “Buy a Ham, Get a Turkey Free” debacle.  Even now I don’t know what I was thinking; however I am a master at choosing a couple delectable items from our collection that I’ll enjoy devouring at home.  These three TV shows are clever and action-packed, exciting for both the brain and the body.

Prison Break cover.phpWhen I first heard about Prison Break (2005-2009), its option had just been picked up by FOX and I thought it sounded innovative and intriguing.  Then the pilot aired and my expectations were exceeded.  Starring a bunch of relative unknowns (at the time), the story centers around Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller), a structural engineer who is deliberately imprisoned in order to help his brother escape.  He believes Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) has been wrongly convicted of murdering the Vice President’s brother.  When Michael’s meticulous plan meets the chaos of prison life, he struggles to keep everything moving forward.

White Collar cover.phpIn White Collar (2009-2014), a prison break is just the beginning.  Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer), a Renaissance con man, successfully escapes but is quickly hunted down by Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), the FBI agent who originally caught him.  Neal uses his specialized knowledge and out-of-the-box thinking to help Peter solve the case, then parlays this success into a consulting deal and an ankle bracelet.  Over the years they take on thieves, forgers, kidnappers, and other criminals.  That may sound repetitive and boring but, trust me, hanging out with these two is anything but.

MI-5 cover.php MI-5 (2002-2011) is a British spy drama that has starred many fine actors such as Matthew Macfadyen, Rupert Penry-Jones, and Richard Armitage.  The Spooks may come and go but they are all overseen by Harry Pearce (Peter Firth), the Head of the Counter-Terrorism Department.  Section D utilizes its high-tech Grid along with field agents to fend off attacks from an assortment of villains, including cyber-terrorists, conventional terrorists, and even other spy agencies.  Sometimes the crisis is resolved within the hour, sometimes it takes longer, and sometimes things blow up.

ICPL owns the complete series for all these titles so you can indulge in a total binge-fest or choose smaller portions to relish throughout the winter.  Bon Appetit!


by Brent Palmer on November 18th, 2015
Fanstasamagory Cover Image

I read a fun new book to my 4 year-old last week called Dory Fanstasmagory.  Dory is sort of a cross between young Romona Beezus and Calvin.  Her nickname is Rascal for good reason.  She drives her older siblings and parents absolutely crazy but its very fun to read about.  Dory is at the point where she is having trouble letting go of her fantasy world.  Her fairly godmother is Mr. Nuggy who looks (to me at least) like a small bearded gnome and is always reachable by banana phone.  doryThe story is narrated by Dory so you can totally sympathize what it’s like to be the youngest member of the family.  But you can also sympathize with the parents. At one point, Dory asks Mr. Nuggy to turn her into a puppy (named Chickenbone).  Dory finds that she can’t turn herself back into a girl before going to the doctor.

When we get home from the doctor, I am in huge trouble.  My mom tells me I have to go to my room for a time-out.  I say, “You can just leave my dog food in bowl outside my door, woof!”.  This makes my mom so mad that she grabs my paw and drags me up the stairs.

“Walk!” she says.

“I am!” I cry.

“On two legs!!!” my mom yells.

We both enjoyed it very much.  And there is a sequel:  When Dory starts school and finally makes a non-imaginary friend, everyone is skeptical that the friend exists.

Bread and a Dog

by Maeve Clark on November 15th, 2015
Bread and a Dog Cover Image

Natsuko Kuwahara, a Tokyo food stylist and former baker and pastry chef has created a delightfully quirky book, Bread and a Dog. The bread in the title is what she would bake each morning for breakfast and the dog in the title is Kipple, a rescue dog she adopted nine years ago. The small book contains 100 photographs of her breakfasts, beautifully crafted breakfasts that she shared through Twitter and Instagram.  Kipple often crept into the frame and instead of banishing him and deleting those with hibread-and-a-dogm in them, Kuwahara decided to share those photos. (Don’t all of us with dogs know how our canine friends are very interested in everything that comes from the kitchen or that is consumed at the table.)  Kibble soon developed a following and the result is this book. She also includes recipes for a number of her breakfast breads and muffins.

Kuwahara in an animal rescue advocate.  She and her husband also have two rescue cats, Kuro and Kotetsu.  This book would make a wonderful gift for anyone who loves breakfast and dogs.  And who doesn’t?

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States

by Anne Mangano on November 14th, 2015
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States Cover Image

I am currently reading Sarah Vowell’s latest book, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, which now has added relevance in light of the sad news from Paris. In a statement yesterday, President Obama said, “France is our oldest ally. The French people have stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States time and again.” And Lafayette’s shoulders were the first in this friendship; they were right there next to George Washington.

In Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, Vowell focuses on Lafayette’s time in the Continental Army starting with how he got there. Lafayette, a French aristocrat, wasn’t even 20-years old when he embarked to America and had to trick his family and King Louis XVI to make the journey. He pretty much ran away. Before setting sail across the Atlantic, he went back to apologize when he heard how angry everyone was, but he wasn’t really sorry. He then “disguised himself in a courier’s get-up, made a U-turn for Spain, and sweet-talked an innkeeper’s daughter he had flirted with en route to point his trackers in the wrong direction.” Why would he do all this? It was a mix of identifying with the American cause and looking for adventure.

Vowell argues that Lafayette came to the colonies thinking he would find a united army fighting for a common cause. This assumption was far from the truth. Congress couldn’t agree on who should run the Continental Army, much less on how to pay to supply the army. The troops were in shambles, barely trained and without shoes or clothing. And there was a great deal of in-fighting among Washington’s staff. But Lafayette found a place for himself, so much so that the only thing Americans could agree on was Lafayette. He became a beloved national hero, even though he wasn’t our “national.”

Like always, Vowell is very funny. Her writing blends her love of the subject, personal anecdotes of her research process, and of course, sarcasm.

Street Art

by Todd Brown on November 12th, 2015


At my desk I can look out across the alley to the backside of another building. The largest surface is a brick wall painted bright white. On sunny days it can be almost blinding. Occasionally there are messages scrawled across the wall or on the HVAC units. Often it is a one word tag that has no meaning to me. It cound be a gang, a sports ball team or maybe a character from My Little Pony. Not long ago new text was added. It says “I feel lonely.” It isn’t in a fancy graffiti font, just plain cursive. Without knowing any specifics I think most people can understand this one.



badBad Graffiti by Scott Hocking As the title implies it is full of crudely drawn pieces of anatomy, references to bodily functions and just plain bad graffiti.




worldThe World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti by Rafael Schacter On the flip side, this book is filled with beautiful pieces of street art. It includes some artists you may have heard of like Banksy and Shepard Fairy and plenty that you have not. It goes beyond just graffiti to include commissioned murals, paper graffiti and installation pieces.


flipFlip the Script by Christian Acker If you are interested in graffiti AND you are a font geek then this is the book for you. It is page after page of graffiti writing styles used across the country. They are grouped geographically, showing which group or individual used it and in what time period.



historyThe History of American Graffiti by Roger Gastman and Caleb Neelon I liked this one because of the photos, especially the large graffiti done on trains and subway cars. It makes me want to watch Beat Street again.