Archive | Book Reviews RSS feed for this section

Fantastic Flying Books


Recently on Youtube I came across the 15-minute Academy Award-winning film short based on the 2012 children’s book The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce. My three-year-old and I clicked through and watched, completely enraptured.

According to, the tale is ”of people who devote their lives to books and books who return the favor….a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story.”  Of course that will hit a soft spot for this librarian, and things may have gotten a bit “dusty” in my living room towards the end of the film. I recommend the book and the film to anyone, child or adult, who can’t live without books. But what struck me afterwards (while rewatching the film, with my husband this time), is that not a word is uttered during the entire thing! Music sets and alters the mood and tempo, and a few key statements are communicated via handwritten letters and printed words on pages; the overall sensation is that of being swirled gently and completely into a gorgeous, speechless world.


As to be expected from such technological pioneers, Morris Lessmore’s cinematic creators at Moonbot Studio go beyond the printed book and a short film. You can download the richly illustrated ebook from iTunes ($4.99), and once you own (or borrow from the library) either a printed or ebook copy, you can buy an app (for iPhone/iPad only, $0.99) called the IMAG-N-O-TRON, which according to Moonbot “uses augmented reality technology to bring the printed page to life.  Simply point the camera of your device at the pages and step into Morris Lessmore’s library, see words fly off the page, and peek into a part of Lessmore’s world not shown in the book or movie.”

Fantastic flying books, indeed!

I hope that everyone has a safe and fun Fourth of July holiday tomorrow. The library will be closed, but remember, our eLibrary offerings are always open. Happy Fourth!


Share via email
Comments { 0 }

The Odyssey…not just for Homer anymore.

I just finished reading the best book EVER!  Okay…pretty much every other book I read is the best book ever.  I tend to like reading realistic fiction…whether it’s historical or present day, I prefer to read about things that can really happen.  But then, when I read the review of Zip, it seemed maybe a little improbable but possible.  Lyssa Lee’s wonderful, adventurous, magical mother, singer Ana Lee has died and Lyssa’s step father Michael has moved them from Austin, Texas to Kirkland, Washington.  There’s no more magic, no more adventures and Michael is making her wear shoes and go to real school

The death of one or both parents is a common theme in children’s literature.  It’s kind of hard to have epic adventures when you have to do your homework, eat dinner with the family, or go to school everyday…think Harry Potter or Huck Finn.  So when Lyssa learns that her childhood home in Austin is scheduled to be torn down by the developer who bought it, but that there’s going to be a big concert/protest to try to stop it…she knows she has to go.  She convinces herself that Michael, being her stepfather and all, won’t really miss her all that much.

Packing her knapsack with a few essentials, she pushes off on her faithful scooter Zip.  Yes, she plans to get to Austin, Texas from Kirkland, Washington…on a scooter…in five days.  Still, I was able to suspend my disbelief and keep reading.  Which was how I discovered that there was actually a long bus ride in her plans…but the bus station was closed due to a huge rainstorm.  Next, I’d say good fortune befell her but it was the other way around.  Peering over a dock to look for something, she fell…in with a group of runaway teens who had more technology than one would think a group of runaway teens living under a dock would have.  They befriended her, gave her a blanket and a place to sleep, and in the morning diverted the police so she could make her getaway to the bus station.  And she hadn’t even left town yet!  Once on her way, she met cowgirls, a sightless seer who channeled her mom, singing mermaids, an tall elderly woman who was none of those things, and many other interesting and sometimes dangerous characters.  She discovered that her mother’s maracas were filled with magic seeds and that some of her mother’s magic was just covering up reality.  But also she found friends, truths, and…her voice.  A really beautiful voice.

Share via email
Comments { 0 }

Out, Damned Spot!


Apologies to the tormented Lady MacBeth, but if watching our planet go to “hell in a handbasket” isn’t also cause for angst and hand wringing, mail me a postcard with something more critical.  (I’m excluding nuclear holocausts, the Mayan’s prophecy coming true, and things like that.)  The dilemma of trying to do the right thing ecologically versus the difficulty of doing so can seem like a nightmare at times.    Trying to finesse our way, after the fact, through recyclables, poisons, and pesticides, versus not having  to use them to beigin with — what would Lady MacBeth do?   I’m not entirely sure.

For those of us who grew up when household labor saving devices were first blitzing the market, the old standbys of baking soda, white vinegar, and newspapers lining the garbage can were slowly but surely being replaced by Proctor and Gamble Inc. and others.   “Oven Off” hadn’t been invented.  Our clothes were still hung on the line in the backyard and ironed with a squirt bottle.   No Bounce to the ounce.   I won’t say scent hadn’t been invented but washing clothes wasn’t supposed to be a sexy thing to do.

As household product ads have gotten slicker and slicker, even the obnoxious ones are marketed to be seductively and subliminally undermining.  Like the snake oil salesmen of the past, they promise salvation and resurrection in a single bottle.   Recently, I bought a bottle of carpet stain remover — not helper but remover.   Two weeks later the spots returned.   It helped out with company coming but I’m left with a bottle of stuff that I can’t, in good conscience, toss in the garbage, down the toilet, or bury in the backyard.

Doing the right thing takes commitment, more time than a sound byte and more thought than a slogan.   Last year, my neighbor and I spent an afternoon gathering up recyclables to dispose of.  It was an eye opener as to how complicated recyclables can be.   Pesticides, solvents, mercury in flourescents,  paints — the list does go on and on.    There’s no question that there’s been progress in getting our waste recycled properly.    Our awareness “quotient” is high.   Still, it seems that the real “elephant in the room” is how to establish a mind set that is pro-active.

There are a number of titles on this subject but one of the real classics is Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan.  Spending a considerable amount of time on the advantages of using natural ingredients such as baking soda, white vinegar and other easily obtainable household items, she explains in detail why these natural non-toxic ingredients can compete with commerical brands.    Trotting out  brand name after brand name of the popular household cleaners, pesticides, and personal care products, she candidly compares them with those we can make ourselves.   Yet, she pulls no punches.  Not every homemade alternative is 100% effective in the comparison.  On the face of it, it’s not the easiest choice.   Looking at the bigger picture, mutiplying the many times in a year we can make our vote count for a non-toxic alternative,  the choice might not be that hard, after all.

Share via email
Comments { 0 }

What Sunset Eats for Breakfast



The New Western Garden Book: The Ultimate Gardening Guide (Sunset Western Garden Book

 One of the biggest mistakes that I’ve made as a gardener was giving away my older edition of Sunset Western Garden Book.   At the time, I naively thought that the newer edition was “better.”  Since then, I’ve gotten savvier.   Sunset editions, always “completely updated and revised,” aren’t necessarily better in all respects.  Certain cherished features may disappear to make room for the new cherished features.   But the one thing that Sunset cannot be faulted on is keeping up with the times.  If Mark Twain were alive today, he might have to eat his famous quote:  “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

Well, Sunset does!

And they do it because between the concern of the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) with nationwide temperature lows, and the concern of the AHS (American Horticultural Society) with nationwide temperature highs, the Western gardener got lost in the shuffle.   Somewhere between the Pacific Ocean coast, the central valley, and the coastal ranges, he could be found but it took Sunset to come to the rescue!   Refining the broad strokes of the USDA and the AHS, twenty four climate zones cover states west of the Rockies,  Alaska, Hawaii, and even the bottom northwestern part of Canada.

This summer, I, like many others I’m sure, have been witnessing the extreme unrelenting heat most of our country has been experiencing.   One morning, looking at KTVU’s national weather map, most of the country ablaze in shades of red, I was startled to see the tiny sliver of our California coast in dark green contrast.   In fact, it seemed barely there when compared to the vastness of the rest of the country.    I couldn’t help but think of when I had lived in San Francisco.   Summer tourists would be in their Hawaiian shirts, totally flummoxed by the cold and damp that native San Franciscans shrug off as normal summer “June Gloom.”   Just across the Bay Bridge, Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, and other East Bay cities and towns, at the very same moment , were experiencing  balmy warm sunshine.   Less than 20 miles north Pittsburg and Brentwood might be sweltering. while towns in the central valley, would be socked in under a thick Tule fog.   This is what Sunset eats for breakfast – the weather of microclimates!  I, for one, take pains not to color outside the lines.

This latest edition of Sunset, while it has done its usual tinkering,  has updated zoning and added sustainable gardening.   In with the new edition, hang onto your old edition, and try out Sunset’s zoning feature — before that trip to the nursery.

Share via email
Comments { 0 }

Big Books Due in September

Hundreds of books will hit bookshelves and ereaders this September, but some of the most anticipated are from big authors Ken Follett, J.K. Rowling, Michael Chabon and Lee Child.

Winter of the World by Ken FollettKen Follett,  never at a loss for words, follows his 2010 Fall of Giants with the second in his Century Trilogy, Winter of the World.  Thankfully this newest is only 960 pages instead of the 985 pages of the previous book.  The story continues the history of five families, but now through the rise of the Third Reich and World War II.  Street date September 18.


The Casual VacancyNot quite so big in length is J.K. Rowling’s first novel written for an adult audience  The Casual Vacancy.  Rowling sets her story in the small community of Pagford, a seemingly quiet community that is actually not at all peaceful and the death of Barry Fairbrother sets off further divisiveness.  Many adults enjoyed the Harry Potter series so expect her to please them again.  Street date is September 27.

Telegraph AvenuePulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon’s newest, Telegraph Avenue will be available on September 11.  As in some of his other novels we start with two guys who are partners, Nat Jaffe and Archy Stalling.  Not only do they work together but their wives do as well. The two men own a vinyl record store called Brokeland Records on Telegraph Avenue and the women work together in a midwifery partnership.  African American and Jewish friends mix with jazz, airships, and long lost family. Very high expectations on this one.

For all you Reacher creatures out there, Jack Reacher returns in Lee Child’s 17th in the series. Hitching a ride to Virginia puts Jack in another impossible situation. A Wanted Man will be available on September 11.

Share via email
Comments { 0 }