MacGregor, Director of the British Museum since 2002, uses 20 ordinary objects from the past to define and explain how the ordinary British man or woman saw the world at the time of Shakespeare.  From a simple communion chalice to an apprentice’s cap, from a musical clock to plague proclamations, MacGregor brings history to life and gives a new and more immediate meaning to Shakespeare’s plays.  This is a fascinating, highly readable look at London during the time in and around 1600.  If you find this as interesting as I did, you may want to look for MacGregor’s earlier book, A History of the World in 100 Objects.


Reviewed by Kate Tesdellshakespeare BY


MshakespeareacGregor, Director of the British Museum since 2002, uses 20 ordinary objects from the past to define and explain how the ordinary British man or woman saw the world at the time of Shakespeare.  From a simple communion chalice to an apprentice’s cap, from a musical clock to plague proclamations, MacGregor brings history to life and gives a new and more immediate meaning to Shakespeare’s plays.  This is a fascinating, highly readable look at London during the time in and around 1600.  If you find this as interesting as I did, you may want to look for MacGregor’s earlier book, A History of the World in 100 Objects.


Reviewed by Kate Tesdell

FALLEN WOMEN by Sandra Dallas

Dsandraenver in the year 1885 was the gilded glory of the west. High society flourished and millions of dollars turned over daily. But, Denver had a greasy sinister side as well. Gambling, prostitution, and extreme poverty ran rampant. It is into this environment that the author, Sandra Dallas, drops wealthy Manhattan missionary, Beret Osmundsen.  Her strong-willed wayward sister, Lillie, has been found brutally murdered in a Denver brothel and Beret is bent on justice.  

Lillie as it turns out is not the wronged and innocent child that Beret believes her to be. Beret’s high society aunt and uncle (Lillie’s Denver charges) also disappoint, disillusion and disgust. Aided by Detective Sergeant Mick McCauley, Beret learns truths about life, death, self and love in her search for the murderer of her sister.

 Dallas always gives the reader a finely crafted tale, but this “era” novel is particularly engrossing.

Reviewed by Neica Dey


One word and some enthusiasm can be a powerful combination.  Little Green’s shout of “Go!” wakes up the construction equipment from their nap and prompts them back to work building a new bridge.  However, his repeated encouragement leads to a bit of chaos.  Thankfully, newcomer Little Red’s “Stop!” provides the break everyone needs to regroup.  Can Little Red and Little Green work together to get the bridge building back on track?  Perfect for sharing one-on-one or with a group, this engaging title begs to be followed by a game of Red Light – Green Light.

Reviewed by Jennie Tuttle, Wickes Library

Recommended for ages 2-5.

ORPHAN TRAIN by Christina Baker Kline

Molly Ayer, a goth high school student needs to get in 50 hours of community service.  Her boyfriend’s mother works for an elderly woman, Vivian Daly, who will take Molly on as a worker if she will help her clean out and sort the many objects, books and papers in her attic. 

At the same time, we learn about Niamh Power, a young Irish orphan from New York who is sent to Minnesota, on the train, to  be adopted.  It will come as no surprise to readers that  Niamh grows up to be Vivian Daly and Molly is drawn into her story on the orphan trains that took children from the streets of New York and left them in Midwestern and Western cities along the way to be adopted or put into what often amounted to slavery.

As a reader, I had always avoided books on this topic, fiction or non-fiction.  I don’t always have to read “happy” books, but I just had the idea that this was real misery and something I didn’t need to subject myself to.  This, however is a lovely book that is difficult to put down.  Young Niamh does come into some horrendous situations and has her trials before the end of the book, but her life and Molly’s have many things in common and the two find a bond of friendship in this lovely story.


Reviewed by Audrey Lewistrain


pieThis is the 19th foodie mystery featuring Hannah Swensen, her cat Moishe, and the characters who work with her at her bakery/coffee shop called The Cookie Jar.  Rounding out the cast are the members of her family, other memorable inhabitants of Lake Eden, Minnesota, and Mike and Norman, the long-suffering duo who constantly vie for Hannah’s heart. 


Minnesota’s idiosyncratic weather is often beautifully depicted in Fluke’s work, and as this tale begins, Hannah and her shop assistant, Lisa, are driving through backroads during a pounding rainstorm.  Concerned about lightening, Hannah comes suddenly across a branch in the road and has to swerve to miss it.  Unfortunately, she does not miss a man lying in the road. The impact of her truck breaks his neck and he dies at the scene.


This is a darker beginning than many of Fluke’s books, and the mystery of who the man is and how he came to be in Lake Eden becomes a complex plot to unravel.  At the same time, Fluke brings in her usual humor as the Swensen daughters try to plan their mother’s wedding, and Moishe learns how to turn on and use the new treadmill Hannah has won.


This entry felt a bit scattered to me, and Hannah’s willingness to continue stringing both Norman and Mike along as boyfriends is beginning to become annoying.  However, fans will find much to enjoy here and as usual, the recipes sound marvelous.


Reviewed by Kate Tesdell

While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

beauty“Once upon a time, there was a kingdom far away.  And in that kingdom lived a king, a queen and their young daughter and they all lived happily ever after.”…………..Not quite.


This compelling and emotional retelling of Sleeping Beauty is as seen through the eyes of Elise, a young peasant woman who comes to work at the palace after the death of most of her family from the pox. She becomes the queen’s handmaid and suffers with her when the queen is unable to bear a child. When the queen finally becomes pregnant, the baby, Rose, is the delight of the palace but things go wrong when the king’s cantankerous aunt is refused entry to the baptism service. Sounds familiar, right?  But this is where the story takes a shift away from what we think we know about the fairy tale.  This reviewer refuses to give away any of the secrets of the ending of this novel of love, friendship and loyalty but hopes you will find that everything ends, if not entirely happily, at least suitably ever after.

Reviewed by Audrey Lewis


With a reputation for being clever, quick and cunning, no one should be surprised to discover that weasels spend their days plotting world domination. However, just as their plans for supremacy are about to come to fruition, the lights black out.  The weasels scramble to locate the source of their troubles.  A tale told as much through the conversation bubbles and illustrations as the text, readers with sharp eyes will detect the problem ahead of its resolution. 

Reviewed by Jennie Tuttle, Wickes Library

Recommended for grades 1 – 4.


Holy bagumba!  This year’s Newbery Medal winner is an action-packed tale featuring a host of quirky characters and filled with graphics and comic-style layouts.  Using knowledge gleamed from a comic book, Flora Belle Buckman, a natural-born cynic, revives a squirrel that had been sucked up by her neighbor’s super-suction, multi-terrain vacuum cleaner only to discover that the incident has provided the squirrel with super powers.  Surprises keep coming as she meets her neighbor’s unique grandnephew, discovers her mother is Ulysses’ archenemy, and realizes hope and love are also formidable super powers.

Reviewed by Jennie Tuttle, Wickes Library

Recommended for grades 3 – 6.

2014 Randolph Caldecott Medal Winner and Honor Books

For the “most distinguished American picture book for children”


 “Locomotive” illustrated and written by Brian Floca



 “Journey” written and illustrated by Aaron Becker


“Flora and the Flamingo” written and illustrated by Molly Idle


“Mr. Wuffles!” written and illustrated by David Wiesner

2014 Coretta Scott King Award Winner and Honor Books

For an African-American author and illustrator



 Author Award:  “P.S. Be Eleven” written by Rita Williams-Garcia


Illustrator Award:  “Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me”  illustrated by Brian Collier

            Written by Daniel Beaty




 Author:  “Words with Wings” written by Nikki Grimes


Illustrator:  “Nelson Mandela” illustrated by Kadir Nelson

            Written by Kadir Nelson

2014 Pura Belpre Award Winner and Honor Books

For a Latino writer and illustrator “whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience”



 “Nino Wrestles the World” illustrated and written by Yuyi Morales



 Author:  “Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale” written by Duncan Tonatiuh

            Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh


Illustrator:  “Maria Had a Little Llama” illustrated and written by Angela Dominguez


Illustrator: “Tito Puente: Mambo King” illustrated by Rafael Lopez

            Written by Monica Brown


Illustrator:  “Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale” illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh

            Written by Duncan Tonatiuh

2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Winner and Honor Books

For the best beginning reader book


 “The Watermelon Seed” written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli



 “Ball” written and illustrated by Mary Sullivan


“A Big Guy Took My Ball” written and illustrated by Mo Willems


“Penny and Her Marble” written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes

2014 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award Winner and Honor Books

For informational books for children


 “Parrots Over Puerto Rico” written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore

            Illustrated by Susan L. Roth



 “A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin” written by Jen Bryant

            Illustrated by Melissa Sweet


 “Look Up: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard” written by Annette LeBlanc Cate

            Illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate


“Locomotive” written by Brian Floca

            Illustrated by Brian Floca


“The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius” written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

2014 John Newbery Medal and Honor Book Winners

For the “most outstanding contribution to children’s literature”



 “Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures” written by Kate DiCamillo

            Illustrated by K.G. Campbell



 “Doll Bones” written by Holly Black


“The Year of Billy Miller” written by Kevin Henkes


“One Came Home” written by Amy Timberlake


“Paperboy” by Vince Vawter


ponchosFrom a little capelet to long, warm ponchos, this book has a wide variety of patterns for your crocheting pleasure.  With items for every skill level, you will be able to create items ranging from the very sophisticated to the very casual.  Directions are written very clearly and are enhanced by the inclusion of color photographs and diagrams.

Following the pattern section is a section on crochet basics.  Crochet tools and yarns are explained and precise directions are given to create various stitches. Finishing techniques are provided on how to give your project that professional look.

All in all this is a nice, complete book, containing all the instruction you would need to create fabulous ponchos for yourself or for gift-giving.

Reviewed by Kathy Dittrich

PIONEER GIRL by Bich Minh Nyguyen

Lee Lien is an All-American girl who grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books in the 1980s.  Her goal in life has been to escape from the world of buffet jobs she’s seen her Vietnamese mother and grandfather take as they moved from one city to another during her childhood.  She gets a PhD. in English and thinks she’s on her way, but when academic jobs prove hard to come by, she finds herself stuck at home working at the family restaurant again.

Then she starts investigating a story she’s heard her grandfather tell many times, about an American woman named Rose who visited his café in Saigon during the war.  That woman left a gold pin behind that, as a child, Lee had always imagined matched the description of a pin Almanzo Wilder gave to his fiancée, Laura, in the last book of the Little House series.  When she finds out that their daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, was a war correspondent in Vietnam in 1965, she decides it’s worth looking into.

As Lee pursues a connection to the Wilder family that may or may not exist, she discovers that her life as the daughter of immigrants is not so different from the pioneers who came before her.


Reviewed by Lynn Heitkamp pioneer


Maybe you remember reading a few paragraphs about John Brown and Harper’s Ferry back in school.  James McBride has written a novel about the last few years of John Brown’s life, leading up to Harper’s Ferry.  It is told from the perspective of a slave boy, named Henry and called Onion by Brown, who is orphaned early on in the novel and “freed” (or kidnapped as Henry sees it.)  Henry tells the story looking back as an old man.  He is not necessarily the most reliable narrator, which gave the author room to embellish.  It starts out in the Kansas Territory.  There is much debate over whether Kansas will be a free state or a slave state.  From there, James McBride mixes fact and fiction to give a humorous and adventurous story of life before the Civil War. 

Reviewed by Fiona Swiftbird


In her latest novel, the gifted author of the heart-wrenching, Me Before You, delivers one compelling love story set in occupied France during World War I and one bittersweet tale of modern day love lost and love found.

After Sophie Lefevre‘s beloved husband Eduoard, an accomplished artist, enlisted in the battle against German forces, her most prized possession is a portrait of her painted by Eduoard. Unfortunately, the Commandant of the occupying forces in her small village longs to plunder not only the painting but Sophie as well.

Almost one hundred years later, Liv Halston grieves for her husband who died four years ago. Her dearest gift from him is a haunting portrait of an unknown young woman. When her right to ownership is questioned, Liv unravels the mysterious past of the portrait.

The moral complexities of the power of love, greed, and sacrifice are delicately woven together through dynamic characterizations and unpredictable plots. Pair this with Anita Shreve’s Stella Bain for two very different looks at strong women facing seemingly insurmountable odds. 

Reviewed by Neica DeyReviewed by Neica Deygirl


stairsFans of Downton Abbey will enjoy this well-researched volume detailing every aspect of life for household servants during the Edwardian era.  In the years before the invention of labor-saving devices and at a time when there were few jobs or opportunities for young women (or for young men without strong family connections), going into domestic service was a major and desirable way to generate income. 


Here Maloney explores the strict hierarchy and rules of life as a servant in an Edwardian household.  She discusses the many levels of servants from the Butler down to the lowest of the low, the Maid-of-all-Work and talks about attire, salaries, and the social code that existed as strongly below stairs as above. For example, in this world, payment was variable.  A lady’s maid was expected to be young.  If she were still employed at the ripe old age of 25, her annual salary began to decrease.  Likewise, a premium was paid for footmen of taller stature, as taller footmen presented a “smarter” appearance.


Filled with many fascinating facts and supported by the true stories of servants of the time, this is a comprehensive look at a vanished era.


Reviewed by Kate Tesdell

Noteworthy & New

Chronicling America & Michigan Digital Newspaper Project

Chronicling America is a website providing information about and access to select historical newspaper pages. It is produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress. The Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University was chosen to partner with the National Digital Newspaper Program and with financial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, has expanded the number of Michigan newspapers freely available online.

Click here to view this page.

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