Twelve Mighty Orphans by Jim Dent

Reviewed by Jayne S (Library Staff)

This book is similar to Seabiscuit (the underdog racehorse) and Cinderella Man (the underdog professional boxer). This time it’s about a ragtag group of boys living in a Texas orphanage during the 20’s and 30’s.

Their new teacher and coach, Rusty Russell, wants to make a difference for these boys. He has overcome near blindness in World War I, and while only making $30 a week and starting without any football equipment – not even a ball! – he forms a competitive team that is beating the biggest high school teams in the state.

The book takes the reader through many memorable games and ends with how the young men fared in adulthood. This book was made into a movie in 2021, starring Luke Wilson. The movie changed and condensed a lot of the boys’ histories and sensationalized some aspects. As usual, the book was much better than the movie.

If you like the Depression era underdog stories, this book is for you.

Available through the Bridges Library System

Forever Boy by Kate Swenson

Reviewed by Jayne S (Library Staff)

Kate grew up always knowing that she wanted to be a mother, so she was filled with joy with the birth of her son Cooper.

But as she relates, something was wrong. He did not sleep, he screamed on and on and did not make the baby achievement milestones like other babies did.

Her book tells her journey on trying to get a diagnosis, finding schooling to help him, trying to balance work, marriage and motherhood all the while having unconditional love for her son.

She went through the stages of grief, knowing Cooper would never drive a car, marry, or even live independently. She gradually came to acceptance and decided to share her insights with other parents that are adapting to live with autism.

This is a sad, but inspiring book. It gave me a glimpse of how parents with special needs children live their lives.

I recommend this book whole-heartedly. Five stars.

Available through the Bridges Library System

Snails & Monkey Tails by Michael Arndt

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

Snails & Monkey Tails is a lively masterpiece of graphic design but I don’t think you need to be a design or language nerd like me to enjoy it. In clever layouts presented in bold red, black and white, Michael Arndt offers up history and fun facts for punctuation and symbols that we overlook every day. In some ways the topic is pretty niche (I noticed I didn’t have a whole lot of competition on the hold list for this brand new book) but in other ways it is so universal–everyone uses punctuation but most are not privy to how the symbols evolved into our current use of them. The downside to reading this book is that I am now quite disappointed in our culture for referring to “@” as the “at symbol” when we could be calling it a monkey’s tail (German), a little mouse (Taiwanese) or a cinnamon bun (Swedish).

Available through the Bridges Library System

When a Killer Calls by John Douglas & Mark Olshaker

Reviewed by Cassidy Hammel (Library Staff)

“This true crime book is an incredibly detailed account of “murder, criminal profiling and justice in a small town.” John Douglas and Mark Olshaker have eloquently infused the denseness of a nonfiction book with enough suspense that it reads like a fiction novel, the reader compelled to keep flipping pages. Inspiration for the show Mindhunter and an account of the birth of criminal profiling, this book details the achievements and defeats of a brand new way of thinking.

Two days before her high school graduation, Shari Smith was abducted from her driveway. The way in which the community, detectives and profilers worked together to seek justice for Shari is incredible. The window into how profilers think is fascinating, as is the process of building a profile of a killer to help catch them. Smith’s story will swallow anyone interested in true crime.

Located in Adult Nonfiction (364.152 DOU)

I Begin with Spring: The Life and Seasons of Henry David Thoreau by Julie Dunlap & Megan Elizabeth Baratta

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

I found this biography of Henry David Thoreau to be absolutely phenomenal.

Organized as a journey through the 4 seasons, beginning with spring and concluding with winter, this book is assembled as a pseudo-sketchbook, saturated with illustrations, handwritten notes, and historical ephemera.

The biographical information is segmented into easily digestible paragraphs flowing alongside nature facts, observations, and soft drawings, mirroring the way in which Thoreau’s life was deeply intertwined with the natural world.

A treasure for enthusiasts of nature, art, and writing.

Available through the Bridges Library System

Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs, a True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal, and Murder by Ben Mezrich

Reviewed by Jayne S (Library Staff)
The author wrote this book as a dramatic narrative account, creating it from court documents, newspaper articles, and participant recollections. Some dates and names were changed to protect privacy, but this is a true story, these events really happened from 2000-2013.

The story follows Boris Berezovsky, known as the Godfather of the Kremlin and Roman Abramovich. After the fall of communism, these and other ruthless men privatized major industries in Russia and became billionaires.

This is a true life thriller, the story starts with an assassination attempt and follows the brutality of the men rising to the top and acquiring billions along the way.

Berezovsky’s TV stations helped keep Yeltzin in power and also propelled Putin to the top. When Berezovsky turns on Putin, he has to flee the country with his bodyguards and enormous wealth in tow.

This book gave me a good understanding of how the oligarchs come to be and why they are so dangerous. Roman Abramovich is still in the news – he is the current owner of the Chelsea (England) Football team that is now under worldwide scrutiny.

This was an interesting, but disturbing read. I feel that I learned a lot and recommend this book to anyone that wants to be more knowledgeable about world events.

Available through the Bridges Library System

Scoundrel: How a Convicted Murderer Persuaded the Women Who Love Him, the Conservative Establishment, and the Courts to Set Him Free by Sarah Weinman

Reviewed by Jayne S (Library Staff)

The book starts with Edgar Smith dying of old age in prison. Then it backtracks to 1957 when he murders a young girl and is convicted and sentenced to death in the electric chair.

He starts appealing to the courts, successfully delaying his execution, while gaining the attention of the conservative TV host of Firing Line, William F. Buckley. Buckley is convinced that he is innocent and helps Smith obtain a book editor to publish his account of what Smith says really happened.

The book bogs down in the middle, with endless correspondence with Buckley, court dates, and an unlikely romantic relationship with the book editor.

Ultimately he gets out and Buckley celebrates with him in NYC, but then things go downhill for Smith again, culminating with a kidnapping and attempted murder.

I did not like this book – it dragged, and since the author reveals the conclusion at the start of the book it did not build any momentum. I was just happy to be done with it. I do not recommend it.

Available through the Bridges Library System

What’s in Your Pockets? by Heather Montgomery

Reviewed by Diane Basting (Library Staff)

What’s in your Pocket is a collection of snap shots of different scientists when they were just children collecting things that interested them and reminds us that what children collect can grow into a life long love of science and change how we think about peanuts, caterpillars, bones, snails, or even life above the tree tops. I think everyone needs this reminder that curious kids lead to amazing discoveries and we all need to empty our pockets before we do laundry!

Located in Children’s Nonfiction (J 508.092 MON)

The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel by Kati Marton

Reviewed by Jayne S (Library Staff)

Angela Merkel grew up in East Germany during the Cold War. Her father was a Lutheran minister, her mother a teacher who was forbidden to teach English. Her grandparents in West Germany sent care packages to her family.

Due to her academic excellence, she was allowed to attend a university and became a research physicist. During that time one of her classmates was hired by the Stasi, the German secret police, to spy on her activities. Then everything changed when the Berlin Wall came down.

She pursued a career in politics, being mentored by Helmut Kohl, the chancellor of the reunited Germany. Within 15 years she rose to the top, using her intellect, her morals, and her scientific reasoning to become the unofficial leader of Europe. She out maneuvered Putin and Trump, worked with Obama and Macron, handled the COVID pandemic with scientific strength and created social policies that included accepting thousands of refugees.

The title of the book really sums it up – she had a remarkable odyssey. I recommend the book wholeheartedly.

Available through the Bridges Library System

Madly Marvelous: The Costumes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel by Donna Zakowska

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

I checked out this oversized book thinking I would flip through the pictures and take in the details of the gorgeous clothes from Amazon’s brilliant comedy, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. However, to my surprise, I ended up reading every single riveting word of it.

I found it fascinating to see Donna Zakowska’s process and point of view for creating each look. It opened my eyes to the nuanced story she’s telling with color throughout the series, the external representation of each character’s mental landscape, and the impressive attention to detail paid to countless extras.

The concise text is balanced nicely with glossy images of initial sketches, fabric swatches, cast fittings, and final shots of the clothing onscreen. If you’ve enjoyed watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, this is a must-read. (Oh, but make sure you’ve watched through the end of season 3 first as there are many spoilers throughout.)

Available through the Bridges Library System