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Celebrating the AACM

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 10:44am

The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) is an iconic collective of musicians based in Chicago. Founded in 1965 through the vision of composer Muhal Richard Abrams, they have spent over five decades pushing the boundaries of jazz and music as an art form, incorporating theatrical performance, costuming, visual art, and unusual instruments into their work. AACM members are active around the country and abroad as performers, teachers, and activists.

In honor of Muhal Richard Abrams' passing this week, here are some AACM-related books and recordings from the AADL collection.

A Power Stronger Than Itself, scholar and trombonist George Lewis' incredible and readable history of the AACM.

Urban Bushmen by the Art Ensemble of Chicago

Coming Home Jamaica by the Art Ensemble of Chicago

Sound by Roscoe Mitchell

Sonic Rivers by Wadada Leo Smith

In for a Penny, In for a Pound by Henry Threadgill

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"F" is for FOX

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 8:43pm

Ms Rachel brought FOX tales to Storytime.
In FLOSSIE And The FOX ... Flossie has to get her basket of eggs safely to Ms. Viola’s house.
Flossie doesn’t know what a fox looks like but she figures it out.
During “A-Hunting We Will Go” we found many rhyming things ... "And We Always Let Them Go!"
Finally .... we sang along with the GINGERBREAD GIRL … as she planned a more successful ending to the classic story of the GINGERBREAD BOY.

For more FOXES and more fun tales try these favorites:
HOW TO FIND A FOX ... can she do it?
LITTLE FOX In The FOREST ... a book without words. You use your own to describe the "magical world" the fox leads you to.
APPLES For LITTLE FOX ... This little fox's first mystery!
MY LITTLE FOX ... little fox's first year in the woods.
ROSIE'S WALK ... a classic. Watch the pictures as you read the story....
The TOMTEN And The FOX ... another classic. The little gnome-like Tomten is there to protect the hen house.
SHELTER ... a proverb, as well as a "fox story".
PANDORA ... an imaginary world grows around Pandora the fox, and Pandora gently tends to it.

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Rereading the Classics: To Kill a Mockingbird

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 12:30pm

I first read To Kill a Mockingbird something like 45 years ago, and I thought recently it was time to revisit it. How long has it been since you read it? Have you ever read it? It is one of the finest works of literature I know of, universal in its themes, distinctly American in its details, and a novel of such astounding excellence and rare insight that it shouldn’t be missed. Its message is never old.

Even if you haven’t read it before, I would guess you still know the story. The film version of the book, starring the incomparable Gregory Peck as the compassionate and principled lawyer, Atticus Finch, has assured that the plot line is familiar. But there are so many reasons to read this book (again) besides remembering what happens next.

Besides an engaging story, the book offers much more: a dead-on picture of small-town, Depression-era, Southern life; enduring insights into childhood games, insecurities, and fantasies; a view of the bond of love between family members, and neighbors, that is both uplifting and heartbreaking; characters so finely-wrought that they endure in your mind long after you put down the book; a subtle and effective examination of the themes of injustice, small-minded prejudice, making moral choices in the face of hatred and ignorance, accepting the ‘other’.

Harper Lee writes the book from the viewpoint of a young Scout Finch, and captures her seven-year-old voice with pitch-perfect accuracy. She effectively uses Scout’s immature perspective to explore the serious events which unfold in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama. Scout’s unassuming observances of the big and small events swirling around her; her feistiness, humor, and fears; her striving to understand her relationship to her family, her school-mates and neighbors who are different from her, and to the wider world; her innocence and wisdom; are all used to unfold the memorable story.

Who is the hero of To Kill A Mockingbird? One of the beautiful things about the book to me is that you could make a case for any number of people having that honor. Atticus is the epitome of the literary hero, quietly dignified, moral, and unpretentious, standing alone, if need be, to do what is right. But what about Scout and Jem? Calpurnia, Tom, Heck? The judge, the doctor, the nosey neighbors who look out for each other and the children? What about Boo? Each of them carries some of the light of the story forward and they create, collectively, the full complement of the heroic impulse and the human response to the world.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #658 “There’s no such thing as ruining your life. Life’s a pretty resilient thing, it turns out.” ~ Sophie Kinsella

Fri, 10/27/2017 - 11:25pm

The Readymade Thief by Augustus Rose is an unputdownable literary puzzler set in contemporary Philadelphia. Its title - an obvious homage to Marcel Duchamp's famous creations that rocked the art world a century ago.

After years of shoplifting and dealing drugs at her high school, 17 year-old Lee Cuddy finally got sent to juvie taking a fall for a friend in a drug bust. A lucky escape means living rough, until she finds refuge in the Crystal Castle - a derelict building where homeless kids squat, under the control of a mysterious figure known as the Station Master. Not one to follow rules, Lee wonders around the restricted area of the Castle, and quickly discovers why homeless kids are disappearing from the streets in suspicious numbers. She manages to steal a strange object from the Station Master that turns out to be a work of art (With Hidden Noise, 1916) by Marcel Duchamp, recently stolen from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one that holds special significance to members of a twisted reincarnation of the Société Anonyme.

With a young artist/hacker Tomi as ally, Lee tries to elude her pursuers who believe Duchamp left clues in his art that reveal the key to immortality, and that Lee holds the key to it all.

"The novel is complex on many intellectual levels, drawing heavily on theories of art history and physics, and the mystery is deep and satisfying in both its unpredictability and its culmination." (Kirkus Reviews)

"With dynamic characters and unforgettable scenes, including after-hours museum sex, mysterious pursuers, and wondrous evasions, Rose’s captivating, art-anchored pager-turner reads like a mashup of Home Alone and The Da Vinci Code." (Booklist)

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PreK Bits - "T" is for TOOLS

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 6:37pm

Ms Rachel and Banjo Betsy worked with TOOLS today.
OLD MacDONALD HAD A WOODSHOP ... and she built a toy farm for the animals to play with!
"Camille (and Johnny) Worked With One Hammer" ... and then they worked with more ... until they went to sleep.
THREE LITTLE PIGS ... each little pig built their own house ... with TOOLS of course!
"Screw it down. Hammer it tight. Built it up. Make it right!"

For more stories with TOOLS try these favorites:
GOODNIGHT LAB: a Scientific Parody ... if you know GOODNIGHT MOON you can love this too.
MY FRIEND ROBOT
TOOLS RULE
MONKEY WITH A TOOL BELT
FROGGY BUILDS A TREE HOUSE
STANLEY The BUILDER
FORT-BUILDING TIME

There are so many parodies of The THREE LITTLE PIGS ... you might like to compare the stories:
THREE LITTLE JAVELINAS ... a bilingual story.
THREE LITTLE PIGS And The SOMEWHAT BAD WOLF.
The THREE LITTLE DASSIES.
Richard Scarry's BEST NURSERY TALES EVER ... and "Three Little Pigs" is one fo the tales.
THREE LITTLE PIGS: An Old Story.
THREE LITTLE PIGS COUNT TO 100.
The THREE LITTLE RIGS.
The THREE LITTLE PIGS ... a turned story by James Marshall.
The TRUE STORY Of The THREE LITTLE PIGS ... from the Wolf's point-of-view.
Who's afraid? Not ME !!

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Sometimes Amazing Things Happen

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 4:50pm

“And when an incarcerated person with a mental illness is too ill to be cared for at Rikers they go, the men that is, to the "prison ward" on the 19th floor of New York's storied Bellevue Hospital, where they remain in custody while doctors, nurses, social workers and counselors treat them, under the watchful eyes of correctional officers, until they are well enough to return to jail.”
From Psychology Today

In her author’s note, Elizabeth Ford tells us that she measures her “success as a doctor not by how well I treat mental illness but how well I respect and honor my patients’ humanity, no matter where they are or what they have done.” Her book, Sometimes amazing things happen : heartbreak and hope on the Bellevue Hospital psychiatric prison ward, chronicles the ways in which she does exactly that, sometimes with a personal struggle, though most often intuitively. Dr. Ford begins her story at the outset of her career at Bellevue Hospital in New York. Bellevue, the oldest public hospital in the country, houses, on its top floors, “one of the most famous psychiatric wards in the world,” including the Bellevue Hospital Psychiatric Prison Ward. The patients here are inmates of the New York City jail system, headquartered on Rikers Island. This is where Dr. Ford works for most of this memoir, and these inmates people her stories from that time. Dr. Ford details her interactions with her patients, providing them with humanity and respect. She is skilled at turning even her most extreme outrage to empathy, aided by her capacity to listen well. “If you listen to the story long enough, you can figure out why these patients behave so badly. Then you can try to fix it.”

Ford has two young children, and like many parents, she struggles with a work-life balance, and at times finds herself unable to leave her patients’ suffering behind. Her own unraveling during her second pregnancy causes her to scale back on her work and leave Bellevue for a period of time. When she returns in 2009, it is to become the first female Director of the Forensic Psychiatry Service at Bellevue. She is continually challenged by the caring of her patients, by episodes of violence, by her frustration with the criminal justice system, but she faces these crises with boundless compassion and determination. Today, Dr. Ford is the Chief of Psychiatry for Correctional Health Services for New York City’s Health and Hospitals.

Similar medical memoirs include, No apparent distress : a doctor's coming-of-age on the front lines of American medicine by Rachel Pearson, and Admissions: life as a brain surgeon by Henry Marsh.

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Stinky Swamp Adventures

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 12:58pm

I Love You More Than the Smell of Swamp Gas by Kevan Atteberry is an adorably creepy story of a parent monster and their kiddo chasing a wild skink through the swamp at midnight. As they chase the critter deeper into the swamp, the pair encounters ominous odors, treacherous terrain, and a hodgepodge of curiously spooky creatures - from blood sucking ducks to toe-biting stones, and moonstruck raccoons. With each encounter the baby monster asks its guardian if they love them as much as they love the new animal they come across, or if they find them as fun as the trouble they’re getting into. The guardian always responds with affirmations of love, using a new ghoulish term of endearment to reassure the child. While the theme of the book has the sweetness of Guess How Much I Love You, it also brings a fun, spooky twist, delighting the reader with its sense of adventure and wild imagination. A must read for ghosts and ghouls this Halloween!

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #657

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 8:38pm

Gone to Dust * is playwright and Emmy Award-winning television (Seinfeld, Ellen, The New Adventures of Old Christine) writer Matt Goldman's mystery debut.

18" of snow fell overnight. Minneapolis PI Nils “Shap” Shapiro was planning to take the day-off when former colleague Anders Ellegaard at the Edina Police Dept. called for assistance at a crime scene. Divorcee Maggie Somerville was found murdered in her bedroom, her body covered with the dust from hundreds of emptied vacuum cleaner bags, rendering all potential DNA evidence unusable.

After checking the alibis and possible motives of the usual suspects (hippy organic sheep-farmer ex-husband, billionaire ex-boyfriend), Shap focuses on a mysterious young woman with no past history; a cache of anonymous love letters to Maggie; and a shadowy figure known only as Slim. Out of nowhere, the FBI demands that they drop the case, forcing Shap and Ellegaard to take their investigation underground, where the case grows increasingly bizarre and twisted.

"(Goldman's) tough yet vulnerable PI, evocative Minneapolis setting, and clever plot, which features a distinctive crime scene and multiple red herrings, will engage and intrigue." (Library Journal)

"With his wry, observant eye and quick wit, plus a pressing need to follow the truth into dark, uncharted places, Shap is a more optimistic version of Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer." (Publishers Weekly)

The second of the Nils Shapiro mystery Broken Ice will be released in 2018.

* = Starred review

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Fantastic Children's Non-Fiction

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 4:29pm

When Planet Earth Was New - by James Gladstone & Katherine Diemert -
This starkly beautiful picture book introduces very young readers to the geological history of planet Earth. Beginning with the very early development of the solar system, billions and billions of years ago, 'When Planet Earth Was New' shows the earth as it passes through various geological epochs, through the beginnings and the evolution of organic life, and into the human-dominated present. You'll find a great appendix at the end, giving a wealth of additional details. This little gem is a great way to show your child the basics of geological and biological history, years before they will first learn it in the classroom.

Pocket Full of Colors: the magical world of Mary Blair, Disney artist extraordinaire -by Amy Guglielmo & Jacqueline Tourville-
The authors chart the course of the life of Mary Blair, the creative talent behind Disney classics like Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland. Mary's creative instincts and professional ambitions collide with gender discrimination in the highly male-dominated work-spaces of mid-century America. Mary perseveres though, and single-handedly drags the Disney Studios from it's black and white past, and into the lush colors of it's storied golden age.

While there is much to love in this slender book, as and adult, my favorite part of 'A Pocket Full of Colors' is how carefully the illustrator captured the various incarnations of Mary's personal style, from Betty Page bangs, to late 50's June Cleaver pearls, and finally into ultra-trendy 60's Mod. This beautifully illustrated, audaciously colorful picture book is a great way to introduce your little one to biographies.

Yum! MmMm! Qué rico! : Americas' sproutings - by Pat Mora -
Featuring vibrant, warm colors and a playful style, Pat Mora manages to pack an enormous amount of quality content into a tiny little picture book. 'Written as a series of haiku, Yum! MmMm! Qué rico!' teaches kids about the history of many of the great foods that originated in the Americas (chocolate, corn, peanuts, potatoes, and many more). Be sure to check out the fun and informative histories of each food item, always in small print on the left-hand side of every page. Your child will be both educated and entertained.

Poison : deadly deeds, perilous professions, and murderous medicines - by Sarah Albee -
Written for more advanced readers, this book is sure to satisfy kids with a passion for chemistry, history, spy-craft, or maybe just anything morbid. While the author is careful to state that 'Poison' is not an exhaustive index of poisonous materials, at nearly 200 pages, Sarah Albee manages to cover an enormous amount of ground. Your child will learn about how humans have wrangled with chemistry throughout history, focusing on the where, when, and why of how people have come into contact with dangerous chemical compounds. Be sure to check it out!

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i carry your heart with me

Sat, 10/14/2017 - 11:33am

E.E. Cummings, (Edward Estlin, for those wondering) beloved American poet, was born on this day in 1894. Cummings is most well known for his unique style of poetry, recognizable by his sparing use of words, and his experimentation with form, grammar, and spelling. Often he wrote about love, and arguably his most well known poem is i carry your heart with me. Cummings started writing at a young age, and was quite prolific, having written thousands of poems. For a quick intro, here are 100 selected poems to give you a taste of his distinguished work. For a deeper dive, be sure to check out a copy of the Complete Collected poems. In addition to writing poetry, Cummings wrote multiple non-fiction books including The Enormous Room and Fairytales, as well as a handful of plays, which are available for check out here.