In the Stacks: New library books feature something for everyone

Posted: Friday, May 11, 2007

True adventure, biographies of artists and generals, and Japanese swords - something for everyone on the new book shelves at the Juneau Public Libraries!

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"Bird Songs: 250 North American birds in song," by Les Beletsky - Divided into four sections by habitat (water, deep forest, woodland, and open-country) and with an easy-to-use digital playback device attached, this guide makes it easy to find out more about the birds we see - and hear - around us. It's a little big for a backpack, so it isn't so much a bird identification book as a great browse before going out or after coming home. Each entry features a watercolor portrait, the common and scientific names, and habitat information for the bird in question, along with a number that corresponds to a number on the playback device. Toggle up to the number, press "play," and you'll be listening to the winter calls of the common redpoll or the scream of a red-tailed hawk.

"Mendel's Daughter," by Martin Lemelman - In 1989, Lemelman videotaped his mother as she talked about her life as a Jew in Poland during World War II, and after her death in 1996, turned her story into this graphic novel. The story of how Gusta, her sister Yetala, and their two brothers survived for two winters in a hidden grave, aided occasionally by those Poles who dared, is unforgettable. The use of a mixture of drawings and family photos, and Lemelman's decision to maintain his mother's imperfect English gives readers the feeling that Gusta Lemelman is sitting nearby, telling her own story. A beautiful tribute to a strong and resilient woman and a memoir of a terrible time.

"A Star is Found," by Janet Hirshenson and Jane Jenkins - This is a fascinating look behind the scenes at the actors who populate our favorite movies. Choosing the right actor to fill a part combines common sense with intuition, and Hirshenson and Jenkins have been honing their craft together since 1981. Here, they write about how they got their starts in the business, movies they've worked on, and actors they've "discovered." No tell-alls here, but lots of interesting tidbits about the work that goes on before the film starts rolling.

"Jewels: a secret history," by Victoria Finlay - Starting with the softest (amber) and ending with the hardest (diamonds), Finlay explores the origins and myths surrounding 9 gemstones. From Russia's recreation of the Amber Room to debunking the curse of the Hope Diamond, Finlay writes enthusiastically about her adventures in the gem trade. She crawls into the ruins of Cleopatra's emerald mine, learns the rudiments of stone-cutting at a Sri Lankan sapphire mine, and investigates opals in Australia. Along the way, she finds that the gemstone industry is on the brink of change. Built on tradition and marketing, the industry is struggling to keep consumers convinced of Nature's supremacy over human ingenuity, as even more true-to-nature methods are found to create artificial stones.

"The Old Way," by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas - At 19, anthropologist Thomas moved to Botswana with her parents to live with a Bushmen tribe. Her experiences there led her to write "The Harmless People," which she updated in the 1980s. Now, in this fascinating book, she speculates on the differences and similarities between ancient human communities and the traditional Bushmen lifestyle, and on the ways that relationships between humans and the natural world have changed.

"Nobody's Horses," by Don Hoglund - The herd of wild horses on the White Sands Missile Range came to national attention in 1994 with the sudden deaths of 122 of the herd from malnutrition and dehydration. With the aid of cowboys, soldiers, and other veterinary professionals, Hoglund coordinated the evacuation of the nearly 2,000 remaining horses, battling heat, stampedes, animal activists, and the red tape and other hazards of military bases. Hoglund's multi-year effort included the rehabilitation and eventual adopting out of most of the horses.


Remember that Story and Toddler times are in recess starting Monday. Summer storytimes and crafts begin Monday, June 4.

As always, placing a hold on our material is easy: Call the Juneau Public Library at 586-5249, or go online to

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