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picking favorites 1

I recently went through a ghost stories phase that lasted for months. To share some of the knowledge I gained from that experience I wrote a post about trends in scary children’s literature, which you can access here. For each trend I gave a couple examples and ended up sharing over 10 book recommendations. That’s when I noticed something—I’ve read a lot of creepy kid’s books. But no matter how much fun I had reading all of them, only a few were actually excellent.

So what makes the difference between “fun” and “favorite”? When it comes to my library reads, I try to judge a book against some standard criteria before putting it on my favorites list. Here are a few of the things I look for when reading children’s books:

  • The characters (whether they have special powers or not) act like actual children.
  • The writing style is smooth and engaging.
  • I can follow the first chapter without feeling frustrated by the introduction of too many unexplained characters or situations.
  • The author knows how to add depth by including several dimensions to the central problem without being overwhelming.
  • The motivations and reactions of the characters feel real.
  • Descriptions add to my imagination’s picture rather than confuse me.
  • If it’s trying to be funny, it actually succeeds.

If a book fulfills these requirements, then there’s a good chance it has some other great characteristics that will make it a favorite. So which of my scary reads made it on the list? Well I’ll give you one: CORALINE, of course! You may have seen that one coming, but if you haven’t read it yet, check it out. Neil Gaiman is a master of his craft. This book meets all of my criteria; plus, it’s freaky.

7.26 CoralineCORALINE
By Neil Gaiman






indian cookery

I think my sudden interest in Indian cooking was triggered by reading A LONG WAY HOME by Saroo Brierley (made into the movie LION in 2016). At age five he became separated from his brother at a train station in India and ended up in Calcutta. Too young to even accurately remember the name of his home village, he was taken to an orphanage and adopted by a family in Australia. In his memoir he lovingly describes memories of the food his mother prepared on an iron griddle over the fire. Food was scarce and the family was always hungry, making the tempting smells of the food even more appetizing. Favorites were yellow lentil dal, and deep fried dough made from bhuja (chickpea flour and spices). Goat curry was a rare treat whose garlicky flavor “exploded” in his mouth.

I can find Indian recipes online and it can be quick, but there is nothing like browsing a cookbook with beautiful illustrations and finding something new on every page.  You may not know when you start looking for a goat curry recipe that cauliflower with ginger and cumin would satisfy your craving for Indian food without having to go to the store to buy goat gizzards! But serendipitously the cookbook opens to an appetizing photo of the spicy cauliflower.

Whether you are an omnivore, a vegan, or a vegetarian, Indian food has something delicious for you. 

Richa Hingle




Asha Gomez



7.25 The Three Sisters Quick and Easy Indian CookingTHE THREE SISTERS QUICK AND EASY INDIAN COOKBOOK
Serena, Alexa, and Priya Kaul



Hari Nayak




Madhur Jaffrey




Two memoirs by famous Indian cooks give an intimate look into food and family in India.

7.25 Love Loss and What We AteLOVE, LOSS, AND WHAT WE ATE
Padma Lakshmi

Padma Lakshmi is the author of several recipe books and producer of Top Chef, a reality TV show in which contestants compete in culinary challenges. Along with details of her marriage to Salman Rushdie, Lakshmi recounts how her love for food was born in India. 




Madhur Jaffrey

Madhur Jaffrey has written more than a dozen Indian cookbooks, the first of which was published in 1973 and introduced America to Indian cooking. 





Do you have an upcoming trip? Whether it’s for business or pleasure, there’s a sure fire way to increase the awesomeness of your travel experience: Check out a book. 

But not just any book. Check out a book that was written about the place you’re going. Whether you’re headed to Rome, Hong Kong, or St. George, we have a book that will help you connect with that place, its culture and its history. 

A couple years ago I spent a few months at a girls school in Kenya. I had a wonderfully immersive experience made only better by the fact that while I was there I was pretty dedicated to reading literature written by people who actually lived, or had lived, in Kenya. Doing this helped broaden my perspective of this young, postcolonial country that I was trying to understand. Here are 5 of my favorite Kenyan books: 

7.21 Out of AfricaOUT OF AFRICA
By Isak Dinesen

This is one of the most familiar Kenyan literature titles thanks to the movie featuring Meryl Streep. Karen Blixen (pen name, Isak Dinesen) writes her biographical memoir of life on a Kenyan coffee farm when Kenya was still a British colony. She was one of many Danes who migrated to Kenya, where the Danish presence remains strong to this day. Her home has been converted into a historical memorial and museum, and while the area that was once her plantation has become part of Nairobi, the locals still refer to the entire area as “Karen.” Blixen’s views are decidedly white-washed, but she still gives a lovely and honest account of what it was like for an educated, single (married but separated) white woman to take up living in a completely foreign environment. 

7.21 West with the NightWEST WITH THE NIGHT
By Beryl Markham

This is another Kenyan colonial memoir. I picked this up because I was told by a fellow literature BA that it had some of the most beautiful prose she’d ever read. She wasn’t wrong. Both Markham and Dinesen paint a beautiful picture of the fantastic Kenyan landscape that is so foreign to many of us living in the US. This is also another great feminist tale as Markham shares her experiences as a single, woman pilot in the African bush. One of her most intense scenes involves an elephant hunt with a murderous bull elephant. While reading this, the locals had already made sure I was scared to death of these big, beautiful creatures, but this scene solidified that fear. Interestingly enough, if you read Out of Africa and wonder where Blixen’s husband is, you can find him hanging out with Markham in this tale, proving how close knit the white settlers were at this time. 

7.21 UnbowedUNBOWED
By Wangari Maathai

There’s no way my reading list would be complete without this amazing autobiography by Wangari Maathai, a Nobel Prize winner for her work with the Green Belt Movement. She was the personal hero of many of the girls on campus, and her views gave me important insight into both the environmental and political crises facing the country. Unbowed is the perfect title for this book about a woman who never stepped back from a fight if she knew the cause would help her country.  

Unfortunately, the Provo library doesn’t own the following two books, but they are still worth looking up. 


7.21 A Grain of WheatA GRAIN OF WHEAT
By Ngũgĩ wa Thiongʼo

Even though the Provo library doesn’t currently own any of the fictional works of renowned Kenyan writer, Ngũgĩ wa Thiongʼo, we do have his autobiography, BIRTH OF A DREAM WEAVER: A WRITER'S AWAKENING. A Grain of Wheat is worth a read if you’re at all interested in the Kenyan independence movement of the 50s. It’s an emotion-driven tale of the controversy that overshadowed the personal lives of everyone leading up to Uhuru. For me, this was an important glimpse into the feelings of someone who actually lived through these turbulent times and the resulting aftermath. 


7.21 The River and the SourceTHE RIVER AND THE SOURCE
By Margaret A. Ogola

I read this book in tandem with the girls at the school where I was living. This amazing tale follows a family through 4 generations, spanning from tribal life in the bush, through university degrees and life in the city. This tale covers love, loss, disease, and political instability as the family tries to survive and stay true to their roots. Akoko, the first protagonist, is heralded throughout as the matriarch of the family, the source of the river.



SR 2017 FB

 One of the challenges in our Summer Reading Program is the “Ask a Librarian” Challenge.  Patrons can click on the blue "Ask a Librarian" tab on the right side of every Provo City Library web page, and either send us a question or tell us their favorite joke.  We have gotten so many interesting questions over the past few weeks, it’s allowed us to flex our librarian muscles!  But I have to admit – my personal favorite has been seeing all of the jokes submitted by our hilarious patrons!  Below is a collection of the jokes submitted so far. Thanks for all the laughs! 

What do you call a camel with three humps?
What did the right eye say to the left eye?
Between you and me, something smells!  
Why did Adele cross the road?
To say hello from the other side. 
How did the hipster burn his tongue?
He drank his coffee before it was cool 
What did the ocean say to the other ocean?
Nothing, it just waved. 
What happens to a frog's car when it breaks down?
It gets toad away 
What are bears without bees?
What do you call a cow with 5 legs?
A Moo-tant 
What do you call a pig that knows karate?
A pork chop! 
Why can't you give Elsa a balloon?
Because she will Let it go...  
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Rita who?
Rita lot of good books! 
When the pig ate the mole, the mole and the pig ran away! 
What do you say to comfort a grammar nazi?
There, Their, They're. 
What do you call a reptile that works as a detective?
An investigator 
Why did the Chicken cross the playground?
To get to the other slide! 
What is Darth Vader's favorite dessert?
Do you know why elephants paint their toenails Red?
So they can hide in Cherry trees.Have you ever seen one in a cherry tree? Good Camouflage isn't it? 
If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?
What kind of dog can tell the time?
A watchdog. 
If a fly did not have wings would we call it a walk? 
What's green and has wheels?
Grass!!! I lied about the wheels. 
Why did the chicken cross the möbius strip?
To get to the same side! 
What do you call a fish with no eyes?
A fsh. 
What do you get when you divide a jack-o-lantern’s circumference by its diameter?
Pumpkin Pi  
Knock, knock...
Who's there?
Boo, who?
Don't cry, it's only a joke! 
Knock Knock
Who's there?
Doctor who?
Why was the tomato blushing?
Because it saw the salad dressing!  
What kind of food does a racehorse eat?
Fast Food! 
Why did the cookie go to the doctor?
Because he was feeling crumby!    
Why did the Invisible Man turn down the job?
He just couldn't see himself doing it. 
What do you call an elephant that doesn't matter?
Where is Flash's (superhero) favorite place to eat?
At a fast food restaurant.  
How do you make an elephant float?
1 scoop of ice scream, 2 squirts of soda, and 3 scoops of elephant 
And God said to John, come forth and you shall be granted eternal life.
But John came fifth and won a toaster. 
What do you call cheese that is not yours?
Nacho cheese! 
Knock Knock
Who"s there?
Pizza Who?
Pizza really great guy 
Why does a chicken coop only have two doors?
Because if it had four, it would be chicken sedan. 
How do you get Pikachu on a bus?
You poke him on. 
Knock, knock. 
Who's there? 
Banana who?
Knock, knock. 
Who's there? 
Banana who?
Knock, knock. 
Who's there? 
Banana who?
Knock, knock. 
Who's there? 
Orange who? 
Orange you glad that I didn't say banana anymore?  
Knock Knock.
Who's there?
Boo who?
Is your tummy hurting? Is that why you said boo who? 
If you are annoyed and I am annoyed, does that make us paranoid?!!  
Why do cows wear bells?
Because their horns don't work!  
Why didn't the skeleton go to the dance?
Because he had no body to go with. 
I will be telling you a Spanglish joke.
What do you call Dora con tualla?
What is the difference between a gross transit terminal and a lobster with plastic surgery?
One's a crusty bus station and one's a busty crustacean.

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