The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, by Erik Larson (2020)

Nonfiction | Adult

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, by Erik Larson (2020)

I’ve read a few of Erik Larson’s books over the years, including The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania; his meticulous research and strong writing make him a top choice for those who like riveting nonfiction that reads like fiction. In this latest title, Larson turns his attention to Winston Churchill and his leadership during the Blitz – the German bombing of London and environs during World War II. In an foreword, Larson explains his interest was piqued by the tragedy of 9-11 in New York City, as he considered how different the experience was for those who lived there as opposed to the majority who watched it from afar. “Almost immediately I started thinking about London and the German aerial assault of 1940-41, and wondered how on earth anyone could have endured it: fifty-seven consecutive nights of bombing…”

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Freedom Libraries: The Untold Story of Libraries for African Americans in the South, by Mike Selby (2019)

Nonfiction | Adult

Freedom Libraries: The Untold Story of Libraries for African Americans in the South, by Mike Selby (2019)

When the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) sent workers to the Deep South for Freedom Summer, their intention was to register African Americans for the vote – a privilege of citizenship that had been largely denied them. States had been disenfranchising them by imposing literacy tests and the like, strategies that nearly always resulted in the vote being denied as the hate and racism held sway. The student workers determined a need for literacy education, and put out a call for books. Thousands poured in – many of them outdated or in poor shape, but sometimes hitting the mark: “stories written by Negroes and about Negroes.” Thus the Freedom Libraries were born, as volunteers set up reading rooms, built shelves and catalogued books, discarding the worst, or in one case, ingeniously repurposing them as bricks!

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Camp Cocktails: Easy, Fun & Delicious Drinks for the Great Outdoors, by Emily Vikre (2020)

Adult | Nonfiction

Camp Cocktails: Easy, Fun & Delicious Drinks for the Great Outdoors, by Emily Vikre

This is such a great idea! Part of my camping experience includes cocktail hour – usually cheese and crackers, veggies and dips, and either a cold beer on a hot day or a glass of wine. But why not make a fun drink? Emily Vikre recently opened a craft distillery with her husband, spurring her interest in creating original cocktails. Combine that with a lifelong love of camping and you get a beautifully conceived and rendered book of recipes for simple but spectacular campside drinks. After an introduction that explains the genesis of the book and how it’s organized, she helpfully lists suggestions for simple ways to equip yourself for tending bar in the woods, as well as camp-friendly techniques for straining, shaking, and muddling.

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The Pollinator Victory Garden, by Kim Eierman (2020)

Nonfiction | Adult

Victory gardens were a thing of wartime Britain (and probably Canada too) – citizens were encouraged to develop kitchen gardens as a war effort, leaving more food for the soldiers, I guess. Or, more likely, diverting agricultural land into space for building military devices. Anyway, the term Victory Garden is being co-opted here to encourage citizens to help support the pollinators – bees, butterflies, beneficial flies, beetles, wasps and even bats (!) – in order to ensure our global food supply. No pollinators means no fertilizing and no apples, cherries, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes – you get the picture. So by turfing the turf and replacing it with flower and vegetable gardens, shrubs, and even piles of leaves and shrubs, we are helping to create habitats that feed, house, water, and protect the creatures that are in a sense feeding us.

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Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots, by Michael Rex (2020)

Picture Book | 4-8

Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots, by Michael Rex (2020)

I don’t know how I feel about the need for a picture book that helps little ones learn to distinguish fake news. Sigh. Okay, I exaggerate. This timely informational picture book is intended to help youngsters differentiate between what is factual (this robot is red) and what is opinion (green is the best colour for a robot), and how to talk respectfully to people with different opinions. I am grateful that intelligent writers, illustrators, and publishers, are recognizing the desperate need for as much help as possible to turn our world around. I am grateful I am grateful. And that libraries (like the Grand Forks & District Public Library) are choosing these titles for their collections. So – this is actually pretty good. The premise is simple – help readers understand the difference between fact and opinion, get them to distinguish the two in a story, and then learn how to respect others’ opinions.

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Birds of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest: A Complete Guide, rev. ed., by Richard Cannings, Tom Aversa, and Hal Opperman (2016, 2018)

Nonfiction | 14 – Adult

Birds of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest: A Complete Guide, rev. ed., by Richard Cannings, Tom Aversa, and Hal Opperman (2018)

Those of us who enjoy local trails year-round know that birds are always ready to accompany you, giving both aural and visual pleasure to your treks. Magpies, nuthatches, herons and pheasants, woodpeckers of all sorts, colourful jays and finches, noisy sparrows – having a good bird book makes getting to know our avian friends so much fun. This is a modestly revised second printing of the first edition published in 2016. The American version is subtitled A Photographic Guide; this one is A Complete Guide. A couple of errors were corrected, but essentially it’s a second printing, a testament of the book’s success. With more than 400 species listed, it falls between the beginner bird identification guide and the exhaustive and massive guides to provincial and state birds, making this an excellent choice for the experienced birder as well.

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Pluto Gets the Call, by Adam Rex, illustrated by Laurie Keller (2019)

Informational Picture Book | 5-8

Pluto Gets the Call, by Adam Rex, illustrated by Laurie Keller (2019)

You have to enjoy the pickle that astronomers have put themselves in, demoting poor Pluto from its planetary status. But imagine how Pluto feels! Rex has devised an interesting scenario in which Pluto gets a phone call advising him of the change in his status. Join him on his journey through the solar system (and from disbelief to acceptance) as he visits all the other planets, a couple of moons and even an asteroid, on his way to talk to the Chief Cheese itself, the Sun. Along the way, youngsters learn all about the solar system, including the make-up of Saturn’s rings, the reason for Jupiter’s red spot, and the sticky issue of Ceres the round asteroid that isn’t a planet either.

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