Monday, April 27, 2015

Recommended Books-Hidden Gems

Searching for a really good read?   Each week look for a "Most Highly Recommended" title from our collection on the library's Facebook page.  These are well-written, beautifully-crafted novels that stand the test of time.  And because they are older books they may be more readily available than the hottest, current bestseller.  Below are some examples of recent "Hidden Gems".  Friend us on Facebook to see our weekly suggestions. Then stop by the library and check them out!

Justine by Lawrence Durrell (1957) Set in Alexandria Egypt on the eve of World War II, this is the story of a doomed love affair between a struggling British writer and the Jewish wife of an Egyptian banker.  It’s known for its beautifully crafted language, and creative structure and style. It has been praised by both readers and critics. Justine is the first volume of the author’s Alexandria quartet which also includes Balthazar, Mountolive and Clea.

Other People’s Children by Joanna Trollope (1999) Trollope is a popular, best-selling British author with a gift for creating realistic, middle class characters who face recognizable situations. In this story she explores the consequences of divorce and remarriage and the messiness of blended families. Trollope introduces us to two women: Josie whose second marriage includes three stepchildren who are loyal to their mother and hate their father’s second wife; and Elizabeth who is loved by her husband’s son but detested by his daughter.

Our Kind of Traitor by John LeCarré (2010) The author ratchets up the tension step-by-step in this  accessible Russian Mafia spy thriller which focuses on the powerful, equivocal position of money launderers in the new world order.

Unfinished Desires by Gail Godwin.  (2009)  Set in 1951, the story of a traumatic year at Mount Saint Gabriel’s, a Roman Catholic all-girls school in the mountains of North Carolina. A friendship between popular Tildy Stratton and new student  Chloe Starnes fills a void for both girls but also sets in motion a chain of events that will profoundly affect the course of many lives, including the girls' young teacher and the school's matriarch, Mother Suzanne Ravenel.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Remembering the Armenian Genocide - 100 Years

This month marks 100 years since the beginning of the Ottoman Empire's near elimination of its Armenian population through killing, starvation, and deportation -- an atrocity that continued through 1923 and is often considered the world's first modern genocide.  

After joining World War I's Central Powers in 1914, the Empire's nationalist Young Turks government perceived its Armenian population as internal enemies who might align with Allied Power Russia.  On April 24, 1915 hundreds of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople were arrested and later deported or killed.  April 24th is now observed by many to be the official commemoration and start date of the eight-year genocide in which it is estimated that as many as 1.5 million Armenians perished.  

The websites below provide more detailed histories of this genocide and answer frequent questions about it, such as the meaning and origin of "genocide" and the controversy surrounding the use of the word.  Also listed below are many histories of this atrocity and several novels based on it.  Each title links to our catalog, where you can read more about the title and find its location in our collection. Books from that list are on display in the library's rotunda through the end of the month.


Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota

"The G-Word: The Armenian Massacre and the Politics of Genocide" by Thomas de Waal from Foreign Affairs, January/February 2015 issue.

Q & A: The Armenian Genocide Dispute from BBC News, April 13, 2015

Questions and Answers about the Armenian Genocide by Rick Gladstone from The New York Times website, April 13, 2015

Remembering the Armenian Genocide by Raffi Khatchadourian from The New Yorker website, April 21, 2015.


Armenian Golgotha by Grigoris Palakʻean.  Knopf, 2009.
Caravans to Oblivion : the Armenian Genocide, 1915  by G. S. Graber.  Wiley & Sons, 1996.

The Fall of the Ottomans: the Great War in the Middle East by Eugene Rogan.  Basic Books, 2015. Chapter Seven: "The Annihilation of the Armenians"
Family of Shadows : a Century of Murder, Memory, and the Armenian American Dream  by Garin K. Hovannisian.  HarperCollins, 2010.

Great Catastrophe: Armenians and Turks in the Shadow of Genocide by Thomas De Waal.  Oxford Univ. Press, 2015.
The Holocaust and Other Genocides : History, Representation, Ethics  edited by Helmut Walser Smith.  Vanderbilt University Press, 2002.  Chapter 10: "The Armenian Genocide"
The Knock at the Door : a Journey through the Darkness of the Armenian Genocide  by Margaret Ajemian Ahnert.  Beaufort Books, 2007.
World War I, the "Great War" [DVD]  by Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius.  Great Courses, 2006.  Lecture Twenty-Four:  "Armenian Massacres - Tipping into Genocide"

Adult Fiction

The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak.  Viking, 2007.

The Gendarme by Mark Mustian.  G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2010.

The Sandcastle Girls: a Novel  by Chris Bohjalian.  Doubleday, 2012.

Young Adult Fiction

Dance of the Banished by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch.  Pajama Press, 2014.

Daughter of War: A Novel by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch.  Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2008.

The Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian.  DK, 2000.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Remisoff murals

It’s fair to say that the Library’s rotunda is unique, not only in design, but because of the beautiful murals that adorn it.  They were done in 1931 by Nicolai Remisoff ,who was born in Russia and ended up in Hollywood,  and are the only viewable works of his in the Chicago area. They were featured March 25th  in WTTW’s  “Ask Geoffrey “. The two over the circulation desk depict (on the left) Homer, the reputedly-blind Greek poet and, probably, the poet Pindar, the adoring boy to his right.  They were not contemporaries.  To the right of the desk is the mathematician Pythagoras and to his right is Thales the geometrician holding a scroll which reads  (in case your Greek is rusty) “Know thyself”. Later blogs will cover the remaining six murals.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

New Series for Elementary Grade Readers

Spring is bursting forth with new buds, birds and books!  We’ve got some new series and stand-alone titles by popular authors for those emerging readers who have been working hard all year in school  and are ready for chapter books full of mystery, humor, fantasy and fun! 

 Big Bad Detective Agency by Bruce Hale
Big Bad Detective Agency by Bruce Hale (120 pages).  More than a fractured fairy tale, this is a mystery based on the Three Little Pigs. The Big Bad Wolf has been unjustly accused of ransacking cottages and teams up with a fourth Little Pig  to clear his name. Hale is author of the tongue-in-cheek Chet Gecko mystery series for children (Hiss Me Deadly, From Russia with Lunch).

 Emma and the Blue Genie by Cornelia Funke
Emma and the Blue Genie by Cornelia Funke (90 pages)  Best known in the U.S. for her popular juvenile Inkheart novels, Funke earlier penned this tale of a young girl who discovers a bottle with –abracadabra! - a genie inside it.  Unfortunately this genie has had his wishing-granting nose ring stolen by the evil genie Sahim.  Emma, her dog Tristan, and Karim (who still retains some magic) head via flying carpet for Barakash, where Sahim now rules, to recover the nose ring and free the city's caliph and citizens. A fast paced adventure with exotic yet familiar tropes to introduce readers to Arabian folklore and fantasy.

 Rescue on the Oregon Trail by Kate Messner
Rescue on the Oregon Trail by Kate Messner (125 pages).  A time-traveling golden retriever named Ranger stars in this magic-tinged first book in the Ranger in Time series. While digging in his yard for a bone, Ranger finds a first aid kit that is actually a time travelling device.  Transported back in time to the Oregon Trail during the 1850's, Ranger joins and helps a family heading west on the historic route.  Possessed with both human and animal wisdom, Ranger is torn between his new pioneer family and his original owner.  However, we can be sure that Ranger will be travelling to other times and saving those in need.

 Lucy Longwhiskers Gets Lost
Lucy Longwhiskers Gets Lost by Daisy Meadows (112 pages). What could be more attractive to young girls who like to read about Rainbow Fairies?  Magic Animal Friends, of course.  Meadows, the author the hugely popular Rainbow Magic Fairy series, now gives us a somewhat simpler chapter book series following the adventures in the Friendship Forest of both humans and animals.  Another sweet  (but not magical) animal series newly published here in the U.S. is the Pet Rescue series by Holly Webb.

Public School Superhero by James Patterson
Public School Superhero by James Patterson (273 pages).  For elementary school fans of JamesPatterson’s I Funny & Middle School the Worst Years of my Life, a new antihero : Stainless Steel!  In real life, 6th grader Kenny Wright attends an inner-city school with all its attendant problems, but his unflagging imagination gives him the super powers to deal with the usual middle school issues and then some.  Periodic comic pages and strips keep the mood upbeat.

 The Witch at the Window by Ruth Chew
The Witch series by Ruth Chew (120 pages).  This mildly scary series, originally written in the 1970s, has been reissued with attractive updated covers and illustrations.  Each story involves different pair of children as they encounter magic in their everyday lives and ultimately a not too frightening witch. 

 Secrets Beneath the Sea
Secrets Beneath the Sea by Janet Gurtler (284 pages).  Four “Tails” in one book.  In the Mermaid Kingdom, three young mermaid girls have the same problems as their land based counterparts.  Issues of friendship, loyalty and secrets help elevate this light series while engaging readers who think mermaids are just as splendid as princesses.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Fooling the Eye

The library's Poets and Writers of Antiquity murals by Nicolai Remisoff were recently discussed on the "Ask Geoffrey" feature of WTTW's Chicago Tonight program.  Also mentioned on that segment were Chicago's LaSalle Towers' trompe l'oeil paintings by Richard Haas and later restored by Thomas Melvin.  (Melvin also painted the murals in the Lake Forest Children's Library stairwells and foyer.)  The LaSalle Towers' paintings fool the eye by making two of the exterior walls appear to have windows that aren't there, one wall even seeming to reflect a neighboring building, which also is not there.  So, for April Fools' Day, here are some titles from our collection that show painting techniques that fool the eye by depicting objects or finishes that are not present. Maybe you'll be inspired to create some foolery in your own home!

 by Tera Leigh

Trompe l'oeil murals using stencils 
by Melanie Royals