Thursday, October 28, 2010

The boss of me

I don't usually blog about children's books - partly because they don't come across my desk very often, and partly because they're usually aimed at a much younger audience than my blog.   But I'm making an exception for a new picture book that I think every new parent (and every old parent) should read.
The Boss Baby by Marla Frazee perfectly depicts what it is like to have a baby in the house.  Likening the new arrival to a Donald Trump-style tyrant, she summarizes the power shift in a few well-chosen words and some truly delightful illustrations.  A cross between an infant and a short, balding executive, Frazee's little baby will be instantly recognized by anyone who has tried to quiet a crying baby at 2 in the morning.  She does a wonderful job with the facial expressions, the sense of lightning-quick moves, and the overall metaphor of her story.
Even though this is a picture book, I think only adults will truly appreciate its worth.  I read the story to both my kids (4 and 9), and although they picked up on the humor in the illustrations, neither one of them really understood what the book was about (not being familiar with terms such as 'executive gym').  Parents, however.....parents will totally get this book.   And if you know someone who has just welcomed a new little boss into their life, you should get this book for them.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Investor murders

If you've lived in Southeast for very long, you've probably heard about the Investor murders.  In September of 1982, eight people on the Washington-based fishing boat Investor were murdered while the boat sat anchored just outside Craig (Prince of Wales Island).  When an attempt to scuttle the boat went awry, the murderer set fire to the vessel.  Although a suspect was eventually arrested, both trials ended without a conviction- and the Investor case is still the largest unsolved murder in Alaska state history.
Addiction counselor Michael McGuire has written a book about the Investor murders, based on his conversations with Larry Demmert Jr., who was a key trial witness.  Angels to Ashes: largest unsolved mass murder in Alaska history recounts some of the events leading up to the murder, and presents a fair amount of information that came up during the trials.  If you remember this case - or if you're intrigued by Alaskan crime in general - you might find this an interesting book.
NOTE:  I have not read this book, but I have gotten feedback from a couple of people who did read the book, including a journalist who is familiar with the background of the Investor case.  Apparently, this is not a well-written book.  It is chock full of typos and grammatical errors, it meanders around from subject to subject.  Other than Larry Demmert, it's difficult to tell who McGuire actually interviewed for this book, and what sources he used.  He doesn't pull any punches when it comes to his opinions, however, and he ends the book with a direct accusation of an Anchorage drug dealer. 
Journalistically, this book is more National Enquirer than New York Times, but if you're willing to make do until something more substantial comes along, then have at it.....

Saturday, October 9, 2010


David Sedaris has just published his latest book of essays, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, and it's a little bit of a departure from his previous works.  Instead of funny, questionably autobiographical recollections of his childhood with his bizarre family, this new book is a collection of fables.  Like Aesop, Sedaris uses animal protagonists to reflect on human vices and virtues.  All resemblance to Aesop's fables pretty much ends there.
For one thing, Sedaris' vices are a little more low-key but a lot more widespread:  pomposity, self-absorption, smugness, bigotry and ignorance.  These are the kinds of behaviors that are becoming more socially tolerated and therefore more proudly displayed.  This pervasiveness makes these traits harder to ignore.
The other difference between Sedaris and Aesop is the characters themselves.  They're foul-mouthed, coolly violent, devoid of empathy, and obnoxious.  They are made even creepier by the wonderful illustrations of Ian Falconer (creator of the clever Olivia books, featuring a young pig with a grandiose imagination - like Eloise of the animal set).  His pictures of the flayed mink, the dying lab rat, and the abused bear aren't necessarily graphic, but they get the point across.
I hope I haven't turned any Sedaris fans off this book, but it's not going to provoke tears of laughter.  The stories are witty and well-written, with a macabre sense of humor.  The lessons aren't that subtle, yet here's enough truth in them that you can automatically transform the animal characters into people you've seen on T.V., overheard in airports, or know from the gym.  Who knows, you might even recognize yourself.....

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wow, what a week!

It's high winds and driving rain outside, but it's all sunshine and smiles inside the library this week:
The Friends of the Library annual booksale brought in $8,296.59!  (just to put this in context, the sale usually brings in about $5,200).  We here at the public library would like to say a huge "Thank You" to Teresa Chenhall for chairing the book sale and getting everything organized.  We would also like to thank all the people who volunteered their time to lug books, set up the tables, and staff the sale itself.  Thank you to the management and merchants of the Plaza Mall for sharing their space with us for the weekend.  And thanks to all the book-loving folks who spent their money!
The other wonderful news this week was the voter approval of municipal bonds for a new library!!!  We are chugging ahead with the building process, and we are going to be ready for the 2011 legislative session.  We would like to give a huge "Thank You" to Heidi Ekstrand, the President of the Friends, for her hours and hours and hours of time and effort getting this project moving forward and drumming up community awareness and support.  Thanks also to all the voters who braved the terrible weather to go to the polling stations and exercise their voting rights. 
And as an extra bonus this week, the torrential rainfall is scouring Ketchikan Creek clean of dead fish, and the library smells fresh as a daisy again!