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FROM YOUR LIBRARIES SELECTED FAVORITES FROM THE CRANBROOK SCHOOLS’ LIBRARIES FACULTY AND STAFF June 2009 NONFICTION Baur, Gene. Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food. (Gail Thomas) “In 1986, after rescuing a live sheep from a pile of dead animals in a stockyard, the author founded Farm Sanctuary, an organization that rescues discarded living animals from stockyards, slaughterhouses and factory farms; provides shelters for them; and advocates for humane animal treatment. In this impassioned book, Baur paints an appealing picture of these shelters and the animals that live there far from the brutality of industrial farming, which he describes in detail. Some of this inhumane treatment is not news—chickens packed into tiny cages—but accounts of living animals discarded like garbage because they are ill or weak surprise. Baur's nonprofit promotes legal remedies to stop the inhumane conditions chronicled. He believes that the best way to demonstrate concern for industrially farmed animals is to adopt a vegan lifestyle, but doesn't proselytize. Rather, he makes a strong case that meat eaters have an ethical responsibility to ensure that the animals they eat have not been abused. His well-argued book includes helpful lists of resources and organizations that deal with factory farming, animal welfare rights, humane food production and the environment.” — Publishers Weekly Bryson, Bill. Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir (Mary Peterson) “Bill Bryson‟s laugh-out-loud pilgrimage through his Fifties childhood in heartland America is a national treasure. It‟s full of insights, wit, and wicked adolescent fantasies.” —Tom Brokaw

Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success (Cindy McGee) “Gladwell, author and journalist, sets out to provide an understanding of success using outliers, men and women with skills, talent, and drive who do things out of the ordinary. He contends that we must look beyond the merits of a successful individual to understand his culture, where he comes from, his friends and family, and the community values he inherits and shares. We learn that society‟s rules play a large role in who makes it and who does not. Success is a gift, and when opportunities are presented, some people have the strength and presence of mind to seize them, exhibiting qualities such as persistence and doggedness. Successful people are the products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy, and success ultimately is not exceptional or unattainable, nor does it depend upon innate ability. It is an attitude of willingness to try without regard for the sacrifice required.” --Mary Whaley, Booklist


Grann, David. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

(Mary Peterson)

“In 1925, renowned British explorer Col. Percy Harrison Fawcett embarked on a much publicized search to find the city of Z, site of an ancient Amazonian civilization that may or may not have existed. Fawcett, along with his grown son Jack, never returned, but that didn't stop countless others, including actors, college professors and well-funded explorers from venturing into the jungle to find Fawcett or the city. Among the wannabe explorers is Grann, a staff writer for the New Yorker, who has bad eyes and a worse sense of direction. He became interested in Fawcett while researching another story, eventually venturing into the Amazon to satisfy his all consuming curiosity about the explorer and his fatal mission. Largely about Fawcett, the book examines the stranglehold of passion as Grann's vigorous research mirrors Fawcett's obsession with uncovering the mysteries of the jungle. By interweaving the great story of Fawcett with his own investigative escapades in South America and Britain, Grann provides an in-depth, captivating character study that has the relentless energy of a classic adventure tale.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Grogan, John. The Longest Trip Home. (Linda Stone) “Grogan follows up Marley & Me, a #1 New York Times best seller recently released as a feature film, with this memoir of growing up the son of Irish Catholic parents in suburban Detroit. He does an excellent job with this story which tells of his evolving relationship with his parents, his wife, and his faith-with equal amounts of heartbreak and humor. “ — Stephen L. Hupp, Library Journal

Pemper, Mietek. The Road to Rescue: The Untold Story of Schindler’s List. (Mary Peterson) “Spy, businessman, Nazi Party member, and “righteous gentile”—this was Oskar Schindler, the controversial German who saved 1,200 Jewish prisoners during the Holocaust. He put the prisoners on the now-famous “Schindler‟s list” and transferred them to his factory in the Czech Republic. Pemper, a Polish Jew, spent 540 days in the Plaszow concentration camp, working as a stenographer to Amon Goth, the camp commander. Pemper was able to pass on secret information to Schindler so he could compile his list. After World War II, Pemper was witness for the prosecution in the trials of Goth and other SS officers. Pemper‟s memoir is the powerful story of one man‟s stand against the slaughter of Jews.” --George Cohen, Booklist Preston, Richard. The Wild Trees (Jan Reelitz) “Preston invokes the spirit of, among others, Darwin, Audubon and Jacques Cousteau as he makes the case that Sillett and the others are master explorers who have begun to reveal the enchantment and majesty of the world's largest living things, some of them thousands of years old. And a reader can't help but compare these skywalking Ph.Ds, inventors and oddballs with mountaineers such as Whymper, Mallory, Hillary and Norgay who challenged the world's highest peaks, especially as the tree climbers bestow appropriately grand names on their discoveries: Atlas, Gaia, Icarus, Helios, Hyperion, the Screaming Titans.” — Grace Lichenstein, The Washington Post


Wells, Ken. The Good Pirates of the Forgotten Bayous: Fighting to Save a Way of Life in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina (Mary Peterson) “Author and journalist Wells, a native of Louisiana bayou country, was a Wall Street Journal reporter when Katrina struck in 2005. Arguably more horrific than the scene in New Orleans were the bayou parishes, particularly St. Bernard and Plaquemines, where the eye of Katrina came on land. After hitching a National Guard helicopter to St. Bernard Parish, Wells meets Ricky Robin, whose ancestors had been hunting, fishing, and pirating the bayous for over 250 years. Robin became Wells's guide, relating harrowing stories of the storm, as even the parish president and his staff were trapped, their emergency vehicles flooded or washed away entirely; the first outside help to reach them was not FEMA, but a squad of Canadian Mounted Police. Wells also examines the disaster's "unnatural causes," like the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, a shipping canal dredged from Lake Pontchartrain to the Gulf of Mexico, which provided an inland channel for the Category 5 storm surge driven by Katrina. Afterwards, the failed levee system prevented filthy, polluted water from draining back to the ocean, turning much of the bayou into a cesspool. Vivid prose, first-hand testimony and solid, heartbreaking reportage make this disaster debrief hard to put down, and worth the attention of every U.S. citizen.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review) Williams, Gregory Howard. Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black (Laura Marmorstein) “Williams, dean of the Ohio State University College of Law, tells the affecting and absorbing story of his most unusual youth. Born to a white mother and a black father who passed for white, Williams was raised as white in Virginia until he was 10, when his mother left. His father brought his two sons back home to Muncie, Ind., in 1954 and sank further into drink. The two boys were eventually taken in by Miss Dora, a poor black widow. Williams's many anecdotes are a mixture of pain, struggle and triumph: learning „hustles‟ from Dad, receiving guidance from a friend's mother, facing racism from teachers and classmates, beginning a clandestine romance with a white girl he eventually married. And while his scarred, grandiloquent father was never reliable, he did instill in young Greg-though not in Greg's brother-sustaining dreams of professional success. Along the way the author decided, despite his appearance, he would proudly claim the black identity that white Muncie wouldn't let him forget. Williams ends his narrative when he reaches college; in the epilogue, he regrets that „there were too many who were unable to break the mold Muncie cast.‟" — Publishers Weekly

FICTION Barry, Brunonia. The Lace Reader: A Novel (Anne Snyder) “In Barry's captivating debut, Towner Whitney, a dazed young woman descended from a long line of mind readers and fortune tellers, has survived numerous traumas and returned to her hometown of Salem, Mass., to recover. Any tranquility in her life is short-lived when her beloved great-aunt Eva drowns under circumstances suggesting foul play. Towner's suspicions are taken with a grain of salt given her history of hallucinatory visions and self-harm. The mystery enmeshes local cop John Rafferty, who had left the pressures of big city police work for a quieter life in Salem and now finds himself falling for the enigmatic Towner as he mourns Eva and delves into the history of the eccentric Whitney clan. Barry excels at capturing the feel of smalltown life, and balances action with close looks at the characters' inner worlds. Her pacing and use of different perspectives show tremendous skill and will keep readers captivated all the way through. — Publishers Weekly (starred review)


Benioff, David. City of Thieves: A Novel. (Jan Reelitz) “During the Nazis‟ brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter‟s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible. By turns insightful and funny, thrilling and terrifying, City of Thieves is a gripping, cinematic World War II adventure and an intimate coming-of-age story with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.” — publisher DeMille, Nelson. Wild Fire (Linda Stone) “This is the exciting sequel to DeMille's hugely successful Night Fall and is his fourth novel to feature the irrepressible and irreverent retired New York Police Department cop John Corey (Plum Island and The Lion's Game were the others). It's been a year since 9/11 and Corey is still searching for terrorists. The United States is contemplating invading Iraq and a right-wing fanatic wants to start a nuclear war against Islam by nuking two American cities. Very rich and very crazy former army officer Bain Madox heads an organization of high-ranking government officials, and they have four suitcase nukes. Obviously, it is up to Corey and his FBI agent wife, Kate Mayfield, to stop the mayhem. "Wild Fire" is the name of a government program guaranteeing an automatic and massive nuclear response in case we are attacked by atomic weapons. This book is fast-paced and thrilling, and if the plot may seem implausible and over the top, a check of recent headlines is in order.” — Library Journal Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. (Cindy McGee) “Seventeen-year-old techno-geek “w1n5t0n” (aka Marcus) bypasses the school‟s gait-recognition system by placing pebbles in his shoes, chats secretly with friends on his IMParanoid messaging program, and routinely evades school security with his laptop, cell, WifFnder, and ingenuity. While skipping school, Markus is caught near the site of a terrorist attack on San Francisco and held by the Department of Homeland Security for six days of intensive interrogation. After his release, he vows to use his skills to fight back against an increasingly frightening system of surveillance. Set in the near future, Doctorow‟s novel blurs the lines between current and potential technologies, and readers will delight in the details of how Markus attempts to stage a techno-revolution. Obvious parallels to Orwellian warnings and post-9/11 policies, such as the Patriot Act, will provide opportunity for classroom discussion and raise questions about our enthusiasm for technology, who monitors our school library collections, and how we contribute to our own lack of privacy. An extensive Web and print bibliography will build knowledge and make adults nervous. Buy multiple copies; this book will be h4wt (that‟s “hot,” for the nonhackers). Grades 8-12.” — Cindy Dobrez, Booklist (starred review)


Dorris, Michael. A Yellow Raft in Blue Water. (Laura Marmorstein) “A powerful novel of three generations of American Indian women, each seeking her own identity while forever cognizant of family responsibilities, loyalty, and love. Rayona, half-Indian half-black daughter of Christine, reacts to feelings of rejection and abandonment by running away, not knowing that her mother had acted in a similar fashion some 15 years before. But family ties draw Rayona home to the Montana reservation as they drew Christine, and as they had drawn Ida many years earlier. As the three recount their lives, often repeating incidents but adding new perspectives, a total picture emerges. The result is a beautifully passionate first novel reminiscent of Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine and The Beet Queen, but a strong work which should be read and enjoyed for its own merits.” — Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Library Journal Enger, Leif. So Brave, Strong and Handsome: A Novel. (Jan Reelitz) “A gritty western couched in the easy storytelling style of a folk ballad (think 3:10 to Yuma as sung by the Kingston Trio), Leif Enger's highly anticipated second novel (his first was Peace Like a River) tells the story of outlaw Glendon Hale's quest to right his past, as seen through the eyes of his unlikely companion Monte Becket. So Brave, Young, and Handsome begins with Becket, a struggling novelist bewildered by the success of his first book, who has pledged to his wife, son, and publisher to „write one thousand words a day until another book is finished.‟ Four years and six unfinished novels later, Becket sits on the porch of his Minnesota farmhouse about to give up on number seven, when he spies a man standing up in his boat „rowing upstream through the ropy mists of the Cannon River.‟ Eager to set aside his waning tale about handsome ranch hand Dan Roscoe, Becket calls out to the mysterious white-haired boatman and his life changes forever. At turns merry and wistful, romantic and tragic, So Brave, Young, and Handsome is as absorbing as a campfire tale, full of winking outlaws and relentless villains--the sort of story to keep you on the edge of your seat with hope in your heart.” -- Daphne Durham, Amazon.com Gaiman, Neil. American Gods. (Cindy McGee) “Gaiman (Neverwhere) explores the vast and bloody landscape of myths and legends where the gods of yore and the neoteric gods of now conflict in modern-day America. The antihero, a man of unusually acute intellect through whose eyes we witness the behind-the-scenes dynamics of human religion and faith, is a convict called Shadow. He is flung into the midst of a supernatural fray of gods such as Odin, Anansi, Loki One-Eye, Thor, and a multitude of other ancient divinities as they struggle for survival in an America beset by trends, fads, and constant upheaval an environment not good for gods. They are joined in this struggle by such contemporary deities as the geek-boy god Internet and the goddess Media. There's a nice plot twist in the end, and the fascinating subject matter and impressive mythic scope are handled creatively and expertly. Gaiman is an exemplary short story writer, but his ventures into novels are also compellingly imaginative.” — Ann Kim, Library Journal


Gibbons, Kaye. Ellen Foster. (Laura Marmorstein) “Ellen Foster is an 11-year-old who has been dealt a rotten hand in life. Her early childhood is spent with a sickly mother and an alcoholic and abusive father. After her mother commits suicide (or is it murder?), Ellen goes to live alone with her father, doing the best she can to avoid being raped or abused. When the courts finally take action, she is sent to live with her grandmother, a bitter and spiteful woman. Yet when her grandmother dies, Ellen manages to take charge of her own life. This beautifully written story, compelling in its innocence, is sweet, funny, and sad.” — Joanna M. Burkhardt, Library Journal

Gruen, Sara. Water for Elephants (Renee Norred) “When his parents are killed in a traffic accident, Jacob Jankowski hops a train after walking out on his final exams at Cornell, where he had hoped to earn a veterinary degree. The train turns out to be a circus train, and since it's the Depression, when someone with a vet's skills can attach himself to a circus if he's lucky, Jacob soon finds himself involved with the animal actsspecifically with the beautiful young Marlena, the horse rider, and her husband, August. Jacob falls for Marlena immediately, and the ensuing triangle is at the center of this novel, which follows the circus across the states. Jacob learns the ins and outs of circus life, in this case under the rule of the treacherous Uncle Al, who cheats the workers and deals roughly with patrons who complain about blatant false advertising and rip-off exhibits. Jacob and Marlena are attracted to each other, but their relationship is fairly innocent until it becomes clear that August is not merely jealous but dangerously mentally deranged. Old-fashioned and endearing, this is an enjoyable, fast-paced story told by the older Jacob, now in his nineties in a nursing home.” — John Coan, Library Journal

Hamill, Pete. Snow in August. (Gail Thomas) “In Brooklyn in 1947, Michael Devlin, an 11-year-old Irish kid who spends his days reading Captain Marvel and anticipating the arrival of Jackie Robinson, makes the acquaintance of a recently emigrated Orthodox rabbi. In exchange for lessons in English and baseball, Rabbi Hirsch teaches him Yiddish and tells him of Jewish life in old Prague and of the mysteries of the Kabbalah. Anti-Semitism soon rears its head in the form of a gang of young Irish toughs out to rule the neighborhood. As the gang escalates its violence, it seems that only being as miraculously powerful as Captain Marvel or a golem could stop them. Strongly evoking time and place, Hamill, editor of New York's Daily News, serves up a coming-of-age tale with a hearty dose of magical realism mixed in.” — Lawrence Rungren, Library Journal


Horan, Nancy. Loving Frank: A Novel. (Jan Reelitz) “In 1904, Frank Lloyd Wright started work on a house for an Oak Park couple, Edwin and Mamah Cheney, and, before long, he and Mamah had begun a scandalous affair. In her first novel, Horan, viewing the relationship from Mamah‟s perspective, does well to avoid serving up a bodice -ripper for the smart set. If anything, she cleaves too faithfully to the sources, occasionally giving her story the feel of a dissertation masquerading as a novel. But she succeeds in conveying the emotional center of her protagonist, whom she paints as a proto-feminist, an educated woman fettered by the role of bourgeois matriarch. Horan best evokes Mamah‟s troubled personality by means of delicately rendered reflections on the power of the natural world, from which her lover drew inspiration: watching her children rapturously observe a squirrel as it pulls apart wheat buds or taking pride in the way the house that Wright built for them in Wisconsin frames the landscape.” — The New Yorker

Kerney, Kelly. Born Again. (Laura Marmorstein) “When the 14-year-old born-again narrator of this book was a baby, her pastor prophesied that she was destined to do great works for God. Now that Melanie is older, those „great works‟ appear to be discovering the truth about this pastor, her family, and herself. Melanie looks at her world and sees that there is something wrong with the picture. Her unmarried teen sister has a baby, her brother listens to devil music, and their mother sees demons walking through the house in the night. Melanie tries to decipher the signs God is sending her. She decides that disproving Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is her duty, and that this will help her save her best friend and then the rest of the world. As Melanie examines Darwin's work, however, she also traces the origin and evolution of her family and learns why her mother obsessively cleans and that her father is not the saint she thinks he is. Melanie finds herself moving away from what her pastor and her parents believe. Readers will appreciate how difficult it is for the protagonist to be understood, and to understand. This is a sympathetic story about the search for true faith in the modern world.” — Will Marston, School Library Journal

Ozeki, Ruth L. My Year of Meats (Linda Stone) “As a writer, Ozeki draws upon her knowledge in documentary filmmaking cleverly to bring the worlds of two women together by utilizing the U.S. meat industry as a central link. Alternating between the voices of Jane (in the United States) and Akiko Ueno, the wife of Jane's boss (in Japan), Ozeki draws parallels in the lives of these two women through beef, love, television, and their desire to have children. Ozeki skillfully tackles hard-pressing issues such as the use and effects of hormones in the beef industry and topics such as cultural differences, gender roles, and sexual exploitation. Her work is unique in presentation yet moving and entertaining.” — Shirley N. Quan, Library Journal


Petterson, Per and Anne Born. Out Stealing Horses. (Renee Norred) Named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review; a Time Magazine Best Book of the Year; and winner of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. “Out Stealing Horses has been embraced across the world as a classic, a novel of universal relevance and power. Panoramic and gripping, it tells the story of Trond Sander, a sixty-seven-year-old man who has moved from the city to a remote, riverside cabin, only to have all the turbulence, grief, and overwhelming beauty of his youth come back to him one night while he's out on a walk. From the moment Trond sees a strange figure coming out of the dark behind his home, the reader is immersed in a decades-deep story of searching and loss, and in the precise, irresistible prose of a newly crowned master of fiction.” — publisher description

Shaffer, Mary Ann and Annie Barrows. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. (Renee Norred) “The letters comprising this small charming novel begin in 1946, when single, 30-something author Juliet Ashton (nom de plume Izzy Bickerstaff) writes to her publisher to say she is tired of covering the sunny side of war and its aftermath. When Guernsey farmer Dawsey Adams finds Juliet's name in a used book and invites articulate—and not-so-articulate—neighbors to write Juliet with their stories, the book's epistolary circle widens, putting Juliet back in the path of war stories. The occasionally contrived letters jump from incident to incident—including the formation of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society while Guernsey was under German occupation—and person to person in a manner that feels disjointed. But Juliet's quips are so clever, the Guernsey inhabitants so enchanting and the small acts of heroism so vivid and moving that one forgives the authors (Shaffer died earlier this year) for not being able to settle on a single person or plot. Juliet finds in the letters not just inspiration for her next work, but also for her life—as will readers.” — Publishers Weekly Sijie, Dai and Ina Rilke. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. (Laura Marmorstein) “This deceptively small novel has the power to bring down governments. In Mao's China, the Cultural Revolution rages, and two friends caught in the flames find themselves shuttled off to the remote countryside for reeducation. The stolid narrator occasionally comforts himself by playing the violin, and both he and more outgoing friend Luo find that they have a talent for entertaining others with their re-creations of films they have seen. A little light comes their way when they meet the stunning daughter of the tailor in the town nearby, with whom Luo launches an affair. But the real coup is discovering a cache of forbidden Western literature including, of course, Balzac that forces open their world like a thousand flowers blooming. The literature proves their undoing, however, finally losing them the one thing that has sustained them. Dai Sijie, who was himself reeducated in early 1970s China before fleeing to France, wonderfully communicates the awesome power of literature of which his novel is proof.” — Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal


Wroblewski, David. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. (Gail Thomas) “A literary thriller with commercial legs, this stunning debut is bound to be a bestseller. In the backwoods of Wisconsin, the Sawtelle family—Gar, Trudy and their young son, Edgar—carry on the family business of breeding and training dogs. Edgar, born mute, has developed a special relationship and a unique means of communicating with Almondine, one of the Sawtelle dogs, a fictional breed distinguished by personality, temperament and the dogs' ability to intuit commands and to make decisions. Raising them is an arduous life, but a satisfying one for the family until Gar's brother, Claude, a mystifying mixture of charm and menace, arrives. When Gar unexpectedly dies, mute Edgar cannot summon help via the telephone. His guilt and grief give way to the realization that his father was murdered; here, the resemblance to Hamlet resonates. After another gut-wrenching tragedy, Edgar goes on the run, accompanied by three loyal dogs. His quest for safety and succor provides a classic coming-of-age story with an ironic twist. Sustained by a momentum that has the crushing inevitability of fate, the propulsive narrative will have readers sucked in all the way through the breathtaking final scenes.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)


Faculty reading