Blog

Pocket Full of Colors

Explore the colorful and magical world of Mary Blair in this junior biography told with beautiful pictures. While we can now find Blair listed among top Disney artists, animators, and designers, we get to see how her childhood love of colors and sketching led to that future working with Walt Disney himself. It is not an easy journey, trying to compete with men as well as color cynics (perhaps somewhat surprising for the world of Disney we know today). Ultimately, though, Blair receives an invitation to help create arguably the most recognizable and nostalgic theme park ride of all time—and my personal favorite—It's a Small World, truly epitomizing Blair's talent and vibrant imagination.

Check out Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire (2017) by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville. For more information, visit Oh My Disney for The World Behind "It's a Small World" and The Life and Work of Mary Blair.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (2016)

Trevor Noah has a gift for storytelling (which makes it no surprise that he is now a comedian). I would have liked this book more if it were told in chronological order, but ultimately, I assume the order in which it is presented goes back to the fact that he's a comedian and likely thinks anecdotally vs. chronologically. That said, Noah tells such fascinating stories of his childhood, teen years, and young adult life, all while intertwining the cultural setting of South Africa while he was growing up. I highly recommend the audio to fully appreciate both the variety of languages Noah references and the emotion and humor in his storytelling.

Check out Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood and other titles on this year's 2019 Lincoln Award (PDF): Illinois Teen Readers' Choice nominee list.

Betty Ford by Lisa McCubbin (2018)

bettyFormer First Lady Betty Ford thought her husband Gerald Ford was going to retire after his time in the U. S. House of Representatives, but instead he moved to a higher office, taking over the Vice Presidency when Spiro Agnew was forced to resign. He became president when Richard Nixon resigned, setting her husband up as one of the most powerful men in the world without even running for office. His demanding job made him a largely absent husband, forcing Betty to raise her four children almost as a single mother.

While her husband was in the White House, Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, it was like receiving a death sentence. She also suffered from an addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol. In 1978, her family staged an intervention. Ford was open with the American public about her health issues and would go on to co-found the Betty Ford Center. Her outspokenness about her personal experiences put the focus on women’s health issues, alcoholism, and addiction, prompting many to seek treatment themselves.

You don’t need to be a fan of President Ford or Betty Ford’s politics to enjoy Betty Ford: First Lady, Women’s Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer by Lisa McCubbin. This is an inspirational and sympathetic portrait of a woman dealing with many issues while living in the political arena.

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel (2013)

astronautAnyone who grew up during the race to the moon era can identify with the mystery and mystique of the astronauts. This nonfiction account from the perspective of their wives may disenchant some, but readers will have a whole new respect and admiration for these great American women. In The Astronaut Wives Club, Lily Koppel does a good job of presenting the facts and opinions through extensive research and interviews in a story-like format. The epilogue ties everything up in a neat package explaining what happened after the space race was won and life returned to normal.

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon (2014)

index.aspx1930 was the year of New York Justice Joseph Crater's infamous disappearance (his body was never found). This novel tells the story as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best: his wife Stella, his mistress Ritzi, and the maid Maria. Their story, expertly woven around these events, comes from the author’s imagination and she builds a fascinating tale of what may have happened.

Author Ariel Lawhon saves the why of Judge Crater disappearance until a twist in the very last pages. The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress will transport readers to a bygone era of chorus girls, speakeasies, bootleggers, Tammany Hall corruption, gangsters, and irritating rich people.

Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? by Billy Crystal (2013)

Upon turning 65, Billy Crystal, a comedian, actor, and director, wrote this entertaining, humorous, and sometimes poignant book. It alternates between quips about aging and reflections on his family life and career. In the audio version of Still Foolin’ ‘Em, the chapters on aging seem right out of his stand-up act complete with laugh track. I especially enjoyed the sections on the making of the movies When Harry Met Sally and City Slickers and learning about his friendship with Muhammad Ali. Reading about his early marriage years with Janice through being a grandpa gave me a different perspective on this funny man.

Seriously, I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres (2011)

The audio version of Seriously, I’m kidding is hilarious due to the fact that it is narrated by Ellen DeGeneres.  Her comedic timing coupled with her funny stories make this audiobook of her reflections on life “laugh out loud.”

Paris in Love by Eloisa James (2012)

Eloisa James wrote this memoir based on her blog and Twitter posts during a sabbatical in Paris. The entries are filled with wit, wisdom, and insights into motherhood and life in general. Tidbits on daily life in Paris abound. The patient reader is rewarded with a sense of character development in each of her family members over the year. The author even throws in a few recipes, reminiscent of Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard, but it is a very different type of memoir.

After the last tear has been shed, the last laugh chuckled, and the family is safe and sound stateside, James adds "My Very Idiosyncratic Guide to a Few Places in Paris" for all of us who dream of visiting Paris someday. She recommends museums, galleries, boutiques, salons, eateries, chocolate shops, and the like that she frequented during her stay in the acclaimed city. Many include websites, just in case we can't wait for our next trip abroad.

Paris in Love is my first taste of the author's work and seems to be atypical. I may have to read one of Eloisa James's (also known as Mary Bly) essays on Shakespeare or romance novels to complete the picture.

Paris: A Love Story by Kati Marton (2012)

Kati Marton is an award-winning author, a successful news correspondent, and a woman with a past worth writing about.  In her memoir Paris: A Love Story, Paris symbolizes an environment of love, adventure, and finally of healing.

Married twice to men, prominent on the world stage, Kati writes candidly of her glamorous life, magically without offending anyone.  Now a widow, she looks over shoulder to a life, filled with passion, service, and possibly integrity.

The Queen of Versailles (2012) PG

At the beginning of The Queen of Versailles, a fascinating documentary, we meet the impossibly wealthy Seigel family: patriarch David is the founder of Westgate Resorts, a timeshare company; and the family is in the midst of the construction of their own version of Versailles, billed as the largest private home in the U.S. Before too long though, the economic crisis of 2008 leaves the company floundering, construction halted on Versailles, and the family making extreme cuts to their extravagant lifestyle.

David’s wife Jackie is the “Queen of Versailles” and she is the quirky, stoic, and often over-the-top heart of the movie. Jackie married into money and has enjoyed it to the fullest, but in the face of an uncertain future she is resiliently planning how to cope if her life takes yet another dramatic turn.

Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick by Paul Dickson (2012)

Bill Veeck was at different times the owner of the Cleveland Indians, the St. Louis Browns, and the Chicago White Sox (twice). Many people remember Bill Veeck as the baseball owner who brought Eddie Gaedel, a 3’7” tall man in as a pinch hitter in a baseball game between the St. Louis Browns and the Detroit Tigers in 1951, or as the White Sox owner responsible for Disco Demolition Night. Still others may remember him for the funny and outrageous but harmless promotions he conducted as owner of the Indians, Browns, and White Sox.

But he was much more than that.  He was a great humanitarian, an advocate of civil rights, a baseball fan's owner who cared about the fans, a player's owner who cared about his players, an employer who cared about his employees, an innovator who introduced many changes in the game, a patriot, a thinker, a listener, an avaricious reader and man who despite a severe physical handicap would never quit.

This is easily the best biography I have read in the last twenty years and maybe the best ever.  This book is especially for White Sox, Indians, and Browns fans. It's for Cub fans too, as Veeck and his father had a profound influence on the Cubs as well (the ivy on the walls, Harry Caray and the singing of  "Take out to the Ball Game" during the seventh inning stretch and others.)  But it is also for any baseball fan and for anyone who appreciates the story of man who lived a truly remarkable life. Read Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick by Paul Dickson.

It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership by Colin Powell (2012)

This collection of hundreds of anecdotes illustrates the rules and values which helped Colin Powell rise to the highest ranks of military leadership. Not merely a primer on what it means to be a good leader, It Worked for Me, is an intimate walk through the life of a military man who also helped shape a great deal of foreign policy in recent history.

With reminiscences of encounters from Reagan to Princess Diana to foreign heads of state, the book delivers a treasure trove of interesting and unique experiences which are sure to whet the palate of any political reader.

King Peggy by Peggielene Bartels (2012)

This book is a true story of how a secretary in Washington, D.C. became a King in Ghana. It is a great example of how one person can make a difference! When she returns to her native village, she finds no running water, high school, or even a doctor. She also has to bury the former King, which she doesn't have the money for. During her first couple of years as King, she finds the strength to change all that.

I loved the balance of men and woman, Christianity and Paganism, modern comforts and simple living, United States and Africa.

Read King Peggy by Peggielene Bartels and get inspired.

Elizabeth the Queen by Sally Bedell Smith (2012)

The author, Sally Bedell Smith, presents an interesting look at both the private and public sides of Queen Elizabeth II in this biography. Through numerous interviews and never-before-revealed documents, she provides insight into how the second-longest reigning monarch in British history has coped with the challenges facing her country since she ascended to the throne sixty years ago. Very readable.

The queen’s diamond jubilee is being celebrated throughout 2012, with a culmination of special events in early June.

The Book of Samson by David Maine (2006)

The story of the Biblical figure Samson is told in a humanizing and darkly humorous way. Samson himself is a womanizing violent religious fanatic, but still manages to be a sympathetic character through his straightforward narration.

Check the catalog for The Book of Samson or for other books by David Maine.