Packing For Mars: The curious science of life in the void

From Ellen Druda
author: Roach, Mary
Packing For Mars: The curious science of life in the void
This book was funny. Each chapter took a look at the different ways NASA prepared the astronauts to handle certain personal functions in space: sleeping, going to the bathroom, eating, air sickness, claustrophobia, etc., and how successful they were.  Along the way we learn about the history of the space program both here and in the Soviet Union, some interesting trivia, and the author’s personal experiences researching the book.  Roach focuses on the absurd and the comic in the very serious world of space travel, and the results are enlightening and entertaining.

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci

From Erik Schmid
author: D’Agnese, Joseph
Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci
The life of the mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci is simplified with fictionalized narrative in this picture biography for the young reader. From his childhood in 1178 Pisa, where he solved the math problems his teachers gave him in seconds, to introducing Hindu-Arabic Numerals to Europe, to discovering the Fibonacci sequence, the book expands upon what is factually known about the life of this great scholar.
Taking what could be perceived as a dry topic and making it very interesting is the true triumph of this children’s biography.

Off Like the Wind!: The First Ride of the Pony Express

From Erik Schmid
author: Spradlin, Michael P.
titl: Off Like the Wind!: The First Ride of the Pony Express
This handsomely illustrated picture book for older readers tells the story of the first ride of the Pony Express in 1860. Using a daily journal style approach, the book uses the route that the riders traversed to inform the reader about the local geography, history and conditions of the stops along the way from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. The factual accounts of the riders, along with action of the everyday events themselves, make this a history book that will appeal to the non-history reader.

West with the Night

From Catherine Costanzo
author: Marhkam, Beryl
West with the Night
This was a very interesting non-fiction book about Beryl Markham who lived most of her life in Africa.  She grew up learning how to train racehorses — and later on learned to fly.  She used to fly safari hunters to different places within Africa — and attempted to be the first person to fly from England to the US.  Interesting reading especially if you have ever been to any of the places she mentions in Africa — or have any familiarity with Denis Finch Hatton or Baron Blixen.

The Help

From Charlene Muhr
author: Stockett, Kathryn
The Help
It’s 1962, and Eugenia Skeeter Pheelan, is a recent white college graduate, who returns home to Jackson, Mississippi, in hopes of becoming a writer.  The local paper hires her to write a housekeeping column, a subject very unfamiliar to her.  Seeking advice for her column, Skeeter begins interviewing Aibileen, a black maid who works for her friend Elizabeth.  When Skeeter submits a story to a NY Book Company and it is rejected, the editor encourages her to write about a subject that she knows.  Skeeter begins writing a ‘secret’ book about black maids working experiences with white families.  She enlists Aibileen’s help in finding other black maids to interview for her book.  This ‘secret’ book will establish Skeeter as a writer but will place the maids in jeopardy.  The audio book with the cast of four voices brings this novel alive, connecting the listener to the women who lived through it.

Shape of Mercy

From Ginny Pisciotta
author: Meissner, Susan
The shape of mercy : a novel

College student Lauren Durough takes a part-time job with an elderly retired librarian.  Her job is to transcribe the journal entries of her employer’s ancestor, Mercy Hayworth, a victim of the Salem witch trials.  She is really drawn to the young girl who lived and died over 400 years ago.  Lauren learns a lot about life, love and mercy. The author goes back and forth between the past and present weaving a compelling story of both girls.  You will not want to put this book down.