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Posts Tagged ‘biography’


This Won’t End Well: Tragic Middle-Grade Reads

by Anne Wilmoth on March 17th, 2017

If, like me, you don’t mind wallowing in despair, as long as a good story has led you there, try one of these new works of juvenile literature.  Eye-opening and morally challenging for middle-grade readers, and equally moving for adults, these two novels and one biography will be read through tears.

Thumbnail   The Dog, Ray by Linda Coggin

Dog books are notoriously sad, and this one is no exception.  However, instead of doggie death coming at the end of the story, in this book tragedy occurs right at the beginning – 12-year-old girl Daisy is killed in a car crash, and her soul returns to Earth in the body of a dog.  A mistake has been made, though, that allows her to recall her previous life as a girl while living her new life as a dog.  Daisy’s one goal is to find her former home and return to living with her parents, but as their dog.

This intriguing concept plays out in a story that is heartbreaking but also sweet and humorous at times.  Daisy finds that “the responsibilities of a dog are enormous” and though her life may be heading in a completely new direction she can’t control, there is meaning and love and hope in store for her.

 

Thumbnail   The Plot to Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero by Patricia A. McCormick

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German minister who conspired with others to assassinate Hitler at the height of the Holocaust.  Long a crusader for social justice, Bonhoeffer was one of the earliest critics of the Nazi regime.  At first, he sought the support of other church leaders in condemning Nazism – few did.  Later, Bonhoeffer graduated to espionage, traveling widely outside Germany to share news of the horrors being leveled against Jews – almost no one believed him.  Finally, Bonhoeffer determined that he had no choice but to take part in a daring scheme to end Hitler’s life.

This juvenile biography raises fascinating moral and ethical questions; through reading, we are privy to Bonhoeffer’s decision to turn to violence, despite his religious convictions and commitment to pacifism and nonviolent social change.  Bonhoeffer’s courage and willingness to stand alone is breathtaking; readers will relish this page-turning volume that exposes little-known history.

 

Thumbnail   The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz

To escape gang violence in their small Guatemalan village, 12-year-old Jaime and his cousin Angela embark on a risky journey north, through Mexico and across the border to Texas and safety.  The drug-trafficking gang that controls their town has killed their cousin and promises they’ll be next; their impoverished family, terrified, scrapes together the money needed to finance their escape.  Along the way, Jaime and Angela are locked in a sweltering boxcar for days, dodge murderous gangs as well as the police, endure hunger, and put their lives in the hands of strangers.

This morally complex book is an important read at a moment when immigration is a hot topic around the world. As USA Today reported, in the first 11 months of the 2016 fiscal year, 54,052 unaccompanied minors made the trek from Central America into the United States.  Based on true events, this novel is the tense, heartfelt story of two of these children, for whom an incredibly dangerous journey is their only hope for the future.

 

 

 

ICPL Top Staff Picks for 2016: Biography and Memoir

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 28th, 2016

Did you know memoir comes from the Latin work memoria, which means making memory or reminiscence?

A memoir is a sub-genre of the autobiography and tends to encompass one time period of an author’s life while a biography and/or autobiography is a detailed description of a person’s entire life.

Here are the lives (or parts of lives) we enjoyed reading about in 2016.

ICPL’s BEST BIOGRAPHIES, AUTOBIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS OF 2016

  • Lust & Wonder by Augusten Burroughsmemoir
  • It Gets Worse by Shane Dawson
  • Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin
  • Charlotte Bronte: A Fiery Heart by Claire Harman
  • Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded by Hannah Hart
  • Greetings From Utopia Park: Surviving a Transcendent Childhood by Claire Hoffman
  • Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
  • You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein
  • Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley
  • The Bridge Ladies by Betsy Lerner
  • I’m Just a Person by Tig Notaro
  • Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner
  • Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

Book Display: What does it mean to be transgender?

by Beth Fisher on November 14th, 2016
Book Display: What does it mean to be transgender? Cover Image

What does it mean to be transgender?  Transgender people are people whose gender identity – their innate knowledge of who they are –  is different from the gender they were thought to be at birth. Transgender people are your classmates, your coworkers, your neighbors, and your friends. With approximately 1.4 million transgender adults in the United States—and millions more around the world—chances are that you’ve met a transgender person, even if you don’t know it.

Being transgender means different things to different people. Like a lot of other aspects of who people are – like race or religion – there’s no one way to be transgender, and no one way for transgender people to look or feel about themselves. The best way to understand what being transgender is like is to talk with transgender people and listen to their stories.  For more information visit http://www.transequality.org/

The books below, and many more like them, can be found in the display on the first floor near the Help Desk. Read the rest of this entry »

Veterans Day Display – Biographies and Memoirs of Veterans

by Beth Fisher on November 8th, 2016
Veterans Day Display – Biographies and Memoirs of Veterans Cover Image

Today the term Veteran encompasses a wider range of people than it ever has in the past. People of different races, genders and sexual orientation, all of whom have or had one thing in common – the willingness to serve and defend our country as a member of the Armed Forces.

Valor – unsung heroes from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the home front by Mark Lee Greenblatt.   Mark Lee Greenblatt interviewed Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine veterans of America’s most recent wars to gather their incredible stories in their own words.  Many of these soldiers have risked their lives multiple times for their fellow solideris and their country.  Until now, however their stories have largely gone unnoticed by the public.

Ssoldier girlsoldier Girls – the battles of three women at home and at war by Helen Thorpe.   Journalist Helen Thorpe tells the moving story of three women in the Indiana National Guard who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Read the rest of this entry »

Not My Father’s Son

by Heidi Lauritzen on June 30th, 2016
Not My Father’s Son Cover Image

Faced with seven hours of driving in one day, I headed for our collection of nonfiction books on disc and selected a title that has been on my pending list for a while:  Not My Father’s Son, by Alan Cumming.  The print book and the audio version were both published in late 2014, to positive reviews.  I enjoyed it very much, although parts of his story are difficult to listen to (or read, I’m sure).

Cumming weaves together two main story lines in the book.  Read the rest of this entry »

Miss Mary Reporting by Sue Macy

by Morgan Reeves on March 25th, 2016
Miss Mary Reporting by Sue Macy Cover Image

History is full of stories about interesting people and I love reading them in the form of picture book biographies. Often these biographies are about familiar figures, but sometimes neglected names are given overdue recognition. Fittingly during National Women’s History Month, pioneering sportswriter, Mary Garber, came to my attention via the new book Miss Mary Reporting by Sue Macy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mary Cassatt; Extraordinary Impressionist Painter

by Katherine Habley on January 27th, 2016
Mary Cassatt; Extraordinary Impressionist Painter Cover Image

In a new picture book biography by Barbara Herkert, a brief text in language appropriate for K-3 grades tells about the strong-willed girl born in 1860 who wanted to be an artist. At 16 she enrolled in art school and studied at the Academy with all the male students.  She next traveled to Paris to study against her father’s objections.  Like many artists, she copied the Old Masters paintings found in the Louvre Museum.  When her artwork was rejected by the Salon, the impressionist painter, Degas, invited Cassatt to join an independent painters’ group and they broke all the rules by using brilliant tones and splashes of white, pastels and soft blurry images.  She captured on canvas what she saw around her.  For Mary, art was life and life was art.  Although she never married, Cassatt painted many beautiful pastels of mothers and babies.  When her family moved to Paris, she used them as subjects of her heartfelt paintings.  Her art now hangs in museums all over the world.  This book will be encouraging to young artists to pursue their artistic dreams.  Cassatt’s paintings continue to inspire, inform, and uplift people today. The illustrations in this picture book are done by Gabi Swiatkowska of France.  An author’s note and list of sources are included in the back of the book.  Before a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, check out this title and share it with your youngster.

ICPL Top Picks for 2015: Autobiographies, Biographies and Memoirs

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 28th, 2015
ICPL Top Picks for 2015: Autobiographies, Biographies and Memoirs Cover Image

Quiz time! What’s the different between an autobiography, biography and memoir?

An autobiography is a story an author writes about his or her life. Usually all-encompassing, most autobiographies start with the author’s childhood and move chronologically highlighting important events, ending at the present time.

A biography also follows a chronological structure over a long period of time, but it is written by someone other than the subject of the book.

Memoirs are sometimes confused with autobiographies, which is completely understandable. Like an autobiography, a memoir is a narrative written by the author about their life. But while autobiographies cover the author’s life up to the point of publication, a memoir focuses on one aspect or theme of the author’s life. Memoirs tend to be less formal, and focus more on memories, feelings, and emotions instead of facts.

No matter which genre you prefer, autobiographies, biographies and memoirs introduce readers to fascinating people, reveal the stories of well-known individuals, and provide inspiration, insight and greater understanding of others.

ICPL’s BEST AUTOBIOGRAPHIES, BIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS OF 2015LouisaMayAlcott

  • Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
  • Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
  • You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir by Felicia Day
  • Wildflower by Drew Barrymore
  • Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film by Patton Oswalt
  • Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon
  • Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
  • Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland by Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus
  • I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda
  • Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin
  • The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
  • On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks
  • Live Like Line, Love Like Ellyn: One Community’s Journey from Tragedy to Triumph by Bill Hoeft

 

 

A Lucky Life Interrupted

by Katherine Habley on July 27th, 2015
A Lucky Life Interrupted Cover Image

A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope by Tom Brokaw was a quick read that I enjoyed.  I remember watching Brokaw as the anchor of the NBC Nightly News for years and also appreciating his thoughtful coverage of Presidential elections.  To me, he was always intelligent, articulate, and reassuring in reporting the news.  Then I got to hear him in person at the University of Iowa a few years ago after his book, The Greatest Generation, was published.  Once again, his presence was so warm and familiar, his sense of humor very apparent, and his Midwestern values obvious.  In his latest book, quite different from his others, Brokaw talks about the 2013–2014 year he spent battling multiple myeloma, a treatable but incurable blood cancer.  After the diagnosis, Brokaw the journalist decided to keep a diary of his time dealing with the ups and downs of cancer treatment.  His journal recounts his frustrations with the medical team in not communicating with each other well enough in coordinating his treatment.  He talks about the importance of patients taking an active role in their own treatment, and the critical role of caretakers, nurses, and rehabilitation specialists. But he also takes a broader look at health care and aging in America and how fortunate he was to have the financial resources to pursue the best doctors at Mayo Clinic and elsewhere.  The question I ask myself frequently, “what do other people do who don’t have health insurance?” is one posed by the author as well.  His memories of important world events and interviews he’s done with famous world leaders are scattered throughout his memoir.  For someone with a very charmed life to talk about his illness and ultimately offer hope to others facing devastating news about their own mortality, his book says a lot about the man himself who counts each day reading, writing, fishing, and time spent with his beloved family and friends, a precious gift.

Twice as Nice!

by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on July 21st, 2015

Often in my civilian life I am recognized and greeted by patrons, whether at HyVee, the bus stop, even on the plane home at Christmas.  Sometimes it isn’t me though – it’s my identical twin sister who also lives in Iowa City.  Instead of regaling you with anecdotes of a twin’s life, I’ll let these authors enlighten you about these special siblings.

Separated @ Birth cover.phpIn Separated @ Birth: A True Love Story of Twin Sisters Reunited (2014) by Anais Bordier and Samantha Futerman, two sisters discover each other’s existence because of a video on YouTube.  Told from alternating viewpoints, this book chronicles that beginning of their relationship, their first face-to-face meeting, and other milestones.  Even if you are not adopted, nor a twin, this heartwarming memoir will make you smile.

There are two related items:  one is a companion documentary “Twinsters” released in 2015; the other is an article in the 12 July 2015 New York Times Magazine titled “The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogata” about two sets of twins switched at birth and raised as fraternal twins.

Trading Faces cover.phpTrading Faces (2009) is the first book in a series written by identical twin sisters Julia De Villers and Jennifer Roy.  It introduces Payton, the “pretty” one, and Emma, the “smart” one.  Because of a wardrobe malfunction, they must switch clothes and identities for the day.  Needless to say, that becomes not the only time; however, they learn that it’s okay not to adhere so rigidly to labels and how to use their individual skills to help each other as well as others.

The Third Twin cover.phpThis final suggestion is a fascinating novel; I have read it multiple times.  The Third Twin (1996) by Ken Follett features Dr. Jeannie Ferrami who is studying nature versus nurture.  She is raped but the suspect claims his innocence.  Further investigation uncovers another man with identical DNA.  And, as the title indicates, there emerges a third character.  Part mystery and part thriller, the plot is quite intricate and intriguing.

Nowadays, multiple births are common.  Even if you are not lucky enough to have congenital buddies, you can experience some of the joy here.




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