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Book Worms' Big Picks to Read, Right Now

Local librarians' top picks for kids... and adults!

Readers rejoice: Wednesday, March 2 is national "Read Across America Day." It's a nice turn of the page put forth by the sometimes militaristic N.E.A. (that's National Education Association, and this writer is also a teacher - take my word for it).

Reading is an amazing, engaging, life-skill building activity - and doing it is an  ongoing event, not limited to just one day. It's also just plain lo' fun. Sometimes it's nice to get a good reading recommendation - who better to turn to than the professionals? Here are some assorted picks from the staffs at the Verona Public Library, and more. 

1) The Cricket in Times Square Longtime and recently retired Verona Public Library children's librarian Rebecca Burkhart picked this one by George Selden - she says it is "one of my very favorite books of all time," since her teacher read it to her class in elementary school. She adds that "I've recommended for families asking for a great read aloud chapter book," and reveals that "it is about a cricket who rides into a subway station in NYC in a picnic basket and is befriended by a mouse and a cat who live there, and a little boy whose family runs a newsstand." Rebecca didn't want to give too much away, so concludes with saying the book is suitable for ages 2 through adult, and third graders and up should be able to read it.

2) The Silent Sea

3) Cresecent Dawn - Picks #2 and #3 were added to the list by VPL's Bill Trafton. He calls them "good escapist summer reading," and with good reason. They're from the pen of Clive Cussler, whose name you have undoubtedly seen on the cover of the 40-plus books he's written. The Silent Sea starts in 1941, following five boys who are looking for treasures. Flash forward, and there's modern-day intrigue about an ancient curse, which comes after a search for a downed NASA satellite. Books are like movies for the mind, and the Cussler novels are just that, in spades. Crescent Dawn takes place in the Middle East with a plot that incorporates events from Ancient Roman times and 1916. Check them out. 

4) Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia - Lest anyone think that Bill at the Verona Library only likes fiction, he's added this very real biography of someone that many may not know. Perhaps you know the name, but not the life and world-affecting times of a man whose actions pretty much defined the Middle East of the 1900s, and is studied today. This tome about T.E. Lawrence (that was his real name) is a solid, well-researched read is not only for history buffs, but anyone - his military strategies and diplomacy transcend the realm.

5) Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and The Art of Diagnosis

This pick comes from the director of the Verona Public Library, Jim Thomas, and it's a good one. He describes the book as "a collection of (medical) diagnostic puzzles and human stories." The basic idea is that as machines help us, they can hurt us.  What are we losing at the expense of technology? Lisa Sanders, MD  set out to find out to figure out some medical mysteries. She's so good, she also serves as a consultant on the television show House, which covers the same ground.

Readers, as this writer is also a teacher, and voracious reader, please also consider these picks.

6) The Eric Carr Story - here's another biography (done in a chronological interview format)  by Greg Prato that tells the somewhat fairytale story of the late drummer in the rock group Kiss, who was actually their second after Peter Criss. Where Criss gave the band soul, Carr (real name: Paul Carvello) gave it heart. He was repairing stoves for a living, took a shot, and got the job in 1980. He was there until 1991, when his life tragically ended from a rare cancer. He's gone, but his kindness and positive spirit will never be forgotten. Included are stories from his family and friends. It's rock 'n' roll, and inspirational.

7) Nate the Great - A fun read aloud book for children (mostly boys) in the first to third grade range, by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. This first outing of detective Nate has cute character bits and a plot that makes kids want to guess what's next. 

9) The Man Behind The Nose: Assassins, Astronauts, Cannibals, and Other Stupendous Tales - With a title that long, it might be hard to tell that this books is about that groundbreaking clown personality, Bozo. Larry Harmon (that's his real name) was a pioneer not only in children's entertainment, but television and franchising. He also served in World War II, and now with this self-penned book shows he is one heck of a storyteller. 

The Staff of the Cedar Grove Public Library also shared their picks with us.

Peter Havel, Library Director
The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Smart, rich, and engaging, Diaz’s novel tells a tale like few others. Centered on its main character, the unfortunate Oscar, the story weaves together the events of Oscar’s life with those of his mother and sister effortlessly, taking the reader from the streets of New Jersey to the grim reality of life in the Dominican Republic during the reign of the infamous Trujillo.

Francine Falcone, Administrative Services
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
I first read this as a teenager and I never forgot it. I identified with the character,
Holden Caulfield, and his reluctance to enter adulthood. He relished his childhood
and understood that he would lose something forever as he approached a new phase of this life. I appreciated the carefree feeling of childhood that I had experienced and understood his unwillingness to let go of being a kid where you can “run in a field of rye”.

Usha Lukos, Reference
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
I love this book because it deals with 2 different cultures, Indian and American. The book follows the life of Gogol Ganguli from birth until middle age, chronicling his struggle to discover who he is as a second-generation Indian American immigrant. I could easily relate to this book as it is very similar to what I had to go through with my parents, especially my mom when it came to arranged marriages.

Barbara Ferguson, Technical Services
Beautiful Joe by Marshall Saunders
Beautiful Joe, a story about an abused dog who is maimed by a milk truck, taught me that no matter what someone looks like, true beauty lies within. Reading it as a child, it is fair to say this book taught me how to love. Also, I hate milk.


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