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My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs by Brian Switek

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My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs by Brian Switek

Last November, the library hosted a Paleo Preschool program with the St. Louis Science Center, before which I had a conversation with the scientist who came to present the program. During this time, she recommended My Beloved Brontosaurus, dino non-fiction for adults, updating all the old facts we've come to hold near and dear to our hearts for all these years. I finally requested it, and wow! Is it great!

Self-proclaimed "fossil fanatic" and amateur paleontologist Brian Switek gives us the low-down on the dinosaurs we love and new scientific discoveries, many of which bust a lot of myths we've come to believe. In here you'll find out how dinos may have been much more colorful, befeathered, and melodic than how they're represented in pop culture. Switek, a regular contributor to many renowned publications like Scientific American and National Geographic, is incredibly accessible, referencing movies and making jokes the whole way--from how stegosauruses had sex to the the demise of the titular beloved brontosaurus. I checked this out on audio--a fabulous listen, read by the author--which needs to be accessed through interlibrary loan if you'd prefer to listen to it, but don't miss the hardcover for all the pictures!

Number of Pages: 
256

Grandmother Fish: A Child's First Book of Evolution by Jonathan Tweet; ill. by Karen Lewis

Grandmother Fish: A Child's First Book of Evolution by Jonathan Tweet; ill. by Karen Lewis

Grandmother Fish is a fantastic introduction to evolution that children can grasp. Jonathan Tweet introduces the reader to different familiar animals, asking for participation in the animals' actions, and diagramming how that animal evolved into its more recent relatives. The colorful pictures are bright and simple, and a bunch of extra evolution facts are provided at the end. This is a terrific, accessible book for young children to look into a large topic.

Number of Pages: 
40

The Trainable Cat: A Practical Guide To Making Life Happier For You and Your Cat by Sarah Ellis and John Bradshaw

The Trainable Cat: A Practical Guide To Making Life Happier For You and Your Cat by Sarah Ellis and John Bradshaw

The Trainable Cat is an interesting mixture of training guide and scientific descriptions of how your cat's brain works. This combination helps to understand why certain training methods work, whereas traditional training methods used on dogs are less effective on cats. I found certain parts very helpful, having started with dogs and not knowing much about cats when I ended up with one. That being said, it's a pretty hefty book of cat psychology to read straight through. Luckily, each chapter works independently, and can be read separately. It would be great to have on hand when you first get a new kitten or cat, or notice problems with your pet already, but I think it's easier to read the chapters as you need them rather than all at once.

Number of Pages: 
325

Squid Kid the Magnificient by Lynne Berry, ill. by Luke LaMarca

Squid Kid the Magnificient by Lynne Berry, ill. by Luke LaMarca

Squid Kid the Maginificent is an amazing magician who uses the powers of sea creatures in his magic tricks. Unfortunately, his sister is trying to ruin his show by giving away all his secrets!

Squid kid and his sister's faces are just eyes and mouth, but somehow still very expressive. This cute book of playing pretend doubles as fun facts on sea creatures and a friendly sibling rivalry. The showmanship of the story makes it a fun one to read aloud with different voices -- Squid kid's magician persona is very separate from his brother character as he interacts with his sister.

Number of Pages: 
38

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone

By the 1950s and early '60s, as the United States ramped up its intention to become the world leader in space travel and discovery, it was still mired in the backwards thinking of the time--women and minorities were not allowed to participate. Jerrie Cobb and twelve other female pilots passed rigorous training and testing--often much more difficult than tasks given to their male counterparts--to prove they had as much of "The Right Stuff" as men to lead the way to space. They faced the overwhelming sexism and racism of nearly everyone--from the media to Mercury 7 astronaut John Glenn, and all the way up to then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson--with grit and panache to argue for equal rights for men and women on Earth and beyond.

Almost Astronauts is a compelling account of the Mercury 13 women, introducing young readers to the prejudices of the time, unjust policy, and the eventual inclusion of women into the field of air and space travel. This book will be the topic of this month's Kids Book Club discussion next Wednesday, and I can't wait to hear what our attendees think!

Number of Pages: 
133

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson

Early 19th-century London still had quite a few advances to make, including a safe and efficient waste management system. This turned into a deadly problem when, in 1854, the Broad Street pump began dispensing cholera with its water supply. It took eight days before the source of the cholera was suspected and access to the pump was removed, but it took even longer before public health and government officials were willing to let go of the idea that the outbreak was a result of "miasma"--an airborne pathogen--and accept the fact that water can transmit diseases as well. By the end of this disaster, over 600 people had died. This exciting, terrifying, and wonderfully disgusting book follows the crusade of Dr. John Snow and the Reverend Henry Whitehead, which would ultimately change the way we view health and disease, urban planning, the environment, and even biological and nuclear warfare.

I had so much fun listening to The Ghost Map. To be sure, it is not for the squeamish--the details of living conditions in London and the ways in which cholera destroys the body will make you think twice every time you turn on the faucet (and thank MSD each time as well). But if you're like me and can revel in the putrescence and have a fascination with epidemiology, you will find a thoroughly enjoyable and eye-opening blend of history, biology, and sociology. Highly recommended!

Number of Pages: 
299

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion

I'm pretty sure loads of people have already read this book and are on to the sequel, but I'm just now catching up.  Graeme Simsion did very well with this first novel.  It's a quirky story with a unique premise.  Main character Don Tillman sounds like an Australian version of Sheldon Cooper (from the Big Bang Theory) in that every minute of his life is scheduled. He eats the same 7 dinners every week, has no concern for style, and has never had a real relationship with a woman.  Don is a very talented genetics professor, but his total lack of social skills makes for moments that are both funny and cringe-worthy.  It's been suggested to him that he should look into having a partner in life, and so he embarks in his methodical way on the "Wife Project."  Meeting the beautiful and lively Rosie, a very unlikely candidate for the project, changes his course entirely.  As he attempts to help her find her biological father, a new world of adventures is opened up that makes him reconsider what he wants and how he goes about everything in life.  Don endures many rough scrapes during his quest, but he also starts learning how to actually live, relax, and ditch the schedule (some of the time).  My one complaint while reading this tale was that the "voice" of Don is at times so academic that it was a little hard to follow.  I'm sure some people liked that aspect of this book, and his vocabulary was a real delight, but I sometimes found it slow-going with his compulsively thorough thinking.  It definitely kept me interested though, and I think it's well worth the read.

Number of Pages: 
292

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Over half a century ago, Henrietta Lacks developed an aggressive form of cervical cancer which quickly took her life. Unbeknownst to her, her doctors at Johns Hopkins had taken a sample of her cells, now known as HeLa cells, which have survived long past her death, have contributed to important discoveries and treatments in medicine, and are sold by the billions. Yet Lacks was buried in an unmarked grave, and her family has received no compensation (indeed, they didn't even find out that her cells were so widely used until long after her death). In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot weaves a compelling and tragic story of Lacks' life and the life of her cells; the efforts made by her family to come to terms with a legacy over which they have no control; and the complicated history of bioethics, including other cases of cell harvesting and the horrific practice of medical experimentation on African Americans.

I found this a fascinating read from beginning to end. While the book begins with Henrietta's life, much of it is devoted to following her daughter Deborah as she strives to learn what happened to her mother (whom she lost a very young age) and sister. Skloot intersperses the text with a lot of information about cancer, research, and bioethics, which sheds more light on Deborah's journey. It's not always easy to find a non-fiction book that is gripping the whole way through, but this book overwhelmingly succeeds. It is guaranteed to make you think.

Number of Pages: 
369

Avengers VS X-Men by Jeph Loeb; Jason Aaron; Brian Michael Bendis; Ed Brubaker; Jonathan Hickman; Matt Fraction; Kathryn Immonen; Steve McNiven; Kieron Gillen; Christopher Yost; Rick Remender; Ed McGuinness; Dan Slott; Mark Waid; Yves Biger

Avengers VS X-Men by  Jeph Loeb;  Jason Aaron;  Brian Michael Bendis;  Ed Brubaker;  Jonathan Hickman;  Matt Fraction;  Kathryn Immonen;  Steve McNiven;  Kieron Gillen;  Christopher Yost;  Rick Remender;  Ed McGuinness;  Dan Slott;  Mark Waid;  Yves Biger

The Phoenix Force is returning to Earth.  The Avengers are determined to stop it... But, the X-Men believe that its arrival will restart the mutant population, which has been on the verge of extinction.

When five X-Men recieve the power of the Force Marvel's greatest heroes battle to determine what will happen to the Force and ultimately the future of the planet.

Just how far is each side willing to go?

Number of Pages: 
384

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman; illustrated by Rick Allen

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman; illustrated by Rick Allen

Award-winning children’s poet Joyce Sidman is back with her latest nature-inspired collection, this time highlighting the flora and fauna that thrive in the winter. From bees to moose, skunk cabbage to snowflakes, Sidman uses a variety of poetic structures and devices to personify and celebrate these beings. Each poem is accompanied by a short discussion providing more information about the subject, and readers will also find the glossary at the end very helpful. Rick Allen has produced stunning linoleum prints for the book, perfect for evoking the velvety, snow-covered wildlife. This is a beautiful collection of poetry best suited for grade-schoolers and nature buffs alike!

Number of Pages: 
40