Evanston Reaches Out to Read

ROR logo_Final_4c1

If you’re a regular reader of the Evanston Roundtable then this title probably caught your eye this month: Evanston is in the Midst of a Reading ‘Crisis’ says ETHS.  The piece goes on to describe how the number of incoming freshmen who require reading intervention has more than doubled since 2011, and that number isn’t going down. It’s going up.  And up.  And up.

As a library we’re crazy about reading but this isn’t the kind of thing you can just leave to your schoolteachers or your faithful children’s and teen librarians.  This situation requires all hands on deck.

Which brings us to the pediatricians.



A little background.  Lo these many years ago I was attending an Eric Carle Museum Awards Gala.  Did you know that there’s a museum out there in Amherst that’s entirely dedicated to children’s book art and illustration?  There sure is. The Eric Carle Museum is a beauty, nestled in an old apple orchard, displaying magnificent art from a range of different talents both old and new.  Each year they host this killer gala in New York City where they fete their donors, fans, and Honor folks in four different categories. Artist, Angel, Mentor, and Bridge.

reachoutandreadIn 2014  the year‘s “Angel” honorees were Brian Gallagher and Perri Klass, representatives from a little organization called Reach Out and Read.  Reach Out and Read is rather unique.  It’s a program established in thousands of pediatric exam rooms nationwide. Because here’s the thing: You can offer free books through a library all you want, but it doesn’t always occur to new parents that babies should be read to.  Someone needs to tell them and who better than a doctor?  After all, even the American Academy of Pediatrics has declared that all pediatricians should make an effort to, “encourage parents to read aloud with their children, beginning at infancy and continuing through age 5.”

To learn a little more about what precisely these books in pediatrician offices do, I direct you to a recent article in the Evanston Roundtable called Erie Family Health Center Helps Build Young Minds Through Reach Out and Read Program. Yes indeed, one of our very own pediatric offices participate in the Reach Out and Read Program.  And here is what, for me, was the really cool part of the article:

“The program is built into ‘well-child’ visits. At each well-child visit, doctors or nurse practitioners give a developmentally appropriate book to the parent or child to take home, and they explain to parents why it is important to read aloud to the infant or child and explain how the parent may interact with the child while reading the book.  As children get older, they may be allowed to choose a book from a small selection of books.”

As you might imagine, that’s a lot of books.  Sadly, Erie was “short by about 2,500 books just for the 0-5 age group” in 2015.

What can you do? At the end of the article this was posted:

“How to Donate Books or Money for Books

Anyone who is interested in making a donation to support the Reach Out and Read program at Erie Evanston/Skokie Health Center may send a check payable to “Erie Family Health Center” with “Evanston/Skokie ROR” in the memo line to: Erie Family Health Center, attn.: Development Office, 1701 W. Superior Street, 3rd FL, Chicago, IL 60622. Or, donate online at eriefamilyhealth.org/support-erie. On the donation form, choose “Designation: Other” and fill in “For Evanston/Skokie ROR.” Erie’s clinic in Evanston also accepts donations of new and gently used books, which may be dropped off at the front desk of Erie Family Health Center, 1285 Hartrey Ave., Evanston.”

So there you go!  You could actually help some kid read.  Now notice that they say they will accept “new and gently used books” so PLEASE be sure to donate only titles in good condition.  Your board books with their gnawed corners or old picture books with torn and yellowed pages may have great stories inside but these kids deserve nice, new, beautiful books of their very own.  So give ’em something gorgeous!  It’s worth it.


The Book Tie-In: Hackstudio

This is the first in a series of posts highlighting important businesses or areas in Evanston.

HackstudioYou wouldn’t think that at the age of 37 a person could become a curmudgeon, but there is at least one area in which slot neatly into the definition.  Hacking.  It’s not that I don’t like it or think it’s a bad idea.  It’s that I haven’t quite internalized the phrase itself.  Hacking.  It sounds like something my cat once did, not the cusp of the new Maker movement.

For the uninitiated (of which I count myself one) here’s a quickie crash course. The New Yorker wrote a piece in 2014 called A Short History of “Hack” which proceeds to explain what the term means to us today.  Appearing in the lexicon as early as 1955, “it derives from a verb that first appeared in English around 1200, meaning to ‘cut with heavy blows in an irregular or random fashion,’ as the Oxford English Dictionary defines it.”  To hack something is to rethink and reimagine it.  Maybe to approach it in a new way.

All this brings us to Hackstudio, here in Evanston. If you’ve driven up Green Bay Road on your way to Wilmette, you might have noticed a garage-like structure with its lovely big sign out front.  Inside you encounter a cavernous space full of activity.  What precisely is going on?  Never the same thing twice.  A visit to their website may raise more questions than answers, so I’ll try to explain what the place is here.

Imagine that there was a location where kids could go to make stuff, come up with ideas, and basically create create create.  Whether it’s a birdhouse or a piece of art or a new invention, you’re going to need space and supplies, right?  You’re probably going to need some help as well.  Imagine there’s a place to do that.  Now there is, and it’s way more than just Shop Class.

The site describes itself this way: “Hackstudio is a program in Evanston, Illinois where kids come together with their supportive peers for two hours every week to learn how to succeed by being who they are. Kids define their own projects from scratch, work to get them done and learn who they are by confronting the obstacles they encounter along the way.”  And for the projects, “Kids can choose literally ANYTHING. The important thing to us is that kids’ projects are pointed in a direction they really want to go. Our program has been painstakingly designed to help kids connect with who they are so they can connect who they are with the world. Without the freedom to explore exactly what matters to them, that process gets constrained.”

Sure, they’ll supply that help, but there are some rules in place.  Everyone helps with everyone else’s project.  This is a collaborative space and while you may walk in with just your own project in mind, soon you’ll be making connections with other people and their projects.  And that’s the kind of thing that leads to experimentation and new ideas.

The site is good but I was pleased to see that they even have a Booklist of titles, saying, “We recommend these titles to anyone looking to dive deeper into the concepts that built Hackstudio.”  Happily, you can pick up most of these here at Evanston Public Library.  Here are ten starter titles you get from EPL:

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink


Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

Daring Greatly

Drive : The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink


The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson


Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon

Far From the Tree

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

Gifts of Imperfection

Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will by Dale J. Stephens

Hacking Your Education

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom: [Why the Meaningful Life is Closer Than You Think] by Jonathan Haidt

Happiness Hypothesis

I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame by Brené Brown

I Thought It Was Just Me

Finally, keep up with the Hack Studio blog here.

Mystery solved.

Remembering Harper Lee


In this age where authors are expected to tweet, update their Facebook pages, use Instagram to promote their books, and even dabble in Pinterest/Snapchat/what-have-you, it’s really enough to make you nostalgic for an era where an author could write a book, have it be a massive success, and then generally disappear from public view if they wanted to.  Salinger managed it.  Harper Lee too.

Remembering Harper Lee is a delicate thing.  For many people, her book TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (which has been almost entirely checked out of the Evanston Public Library system, and for good reason) is personal to them.  People name their children “Atticus” and “Scout” in honor of the books.  She managed to write an honest-to-goodness timeless book.  Consider that just last year when GO SET A WATCHMEN was released there was enormous debate in various literary circles not just about its merit but its origins and how it all reflected back on MOCKINGBIRD.

In the end, I think the best we can do is read Lee’s book, remember it, and look at some of the lovelier tributes out there today to her life and work.  She may have kept a low profile, but her shadow loomed large.  It still does.

Nom Nom Nom: Food Bios and Author Visits

JacketHungry?  You should be.  For what it’s worth the authors Daniel R. Block and Howard Rosing, the men behind the new book Chicago: A Food Biography, are coming to Evanston Public Library on Sunday, February 21st at 3:00 p.m. to the Community Meeting Room (it’s bound to be popular so please register online or call 847-448-8620 to guarantee your seat).

Now their book is best described this way: “The food biography of Chicago is not just a story of culture, economics, and innovation but also a history of regulation and regulators, as they protected Chicago’s food supply and built Chicago into a city where people come to eat, and where locals can rely on the availability of safe food and water. With vivid details and stories of local restaurants and food, Daniel R. Block and Howard Rosing reveal Chicago to be one of the foremost eating destinations in the country”.

Neat, right?

But lest you think it the only Chicago-related foodie book in our collection, think again.  We’ve a veritable plethora of books just waiting for you to check them out.  Here are some of our favorites:


Sure, he may be hot stuff in Brooklyn now, but Dale Talde acquired his eclectic tastes in Chicago proper.  As the description for his latest book Asian-American: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from the Phillipines to Brooklyn puts it, ” Born in Chicago to Filipino parents, Dale Talde grew up both steeped in his family’s culinary heritage and infatuated with American fast food–burgers, chicken nuggets, and Hot Pockets. Today, his dual identity is etched on the menu at Talde, his always-packed Brooklyn restaurant.”  Now you too can enjoy recipes like fish with black-bean brown butter, eggplant relish with olives, pistachios, and fish sauce, grilled kale salad with beets and persimmon, and even pretzel squares with caramel-chocolate ganache. mmmmmmmmm.


But enough about restauranteurs that left the Midwest.  Not too long ago Ina’s Kitchen in Chicago was a verifiable institution.  When it closed in 2013 people were more than a little distressed.  After all, Ina Pinkney had been feeding people for thirty-three years by that point.  It may strike some as cold comfort, but at least we have Ina’s recipe book Taste Memories: Recipes for Life and Breakfast to tide us over.  In it, you’ll find the recipes you grew to love (yes, the Heavenly Hots and Chocolate Blobs are there waiting for you) and maybe some new ones as well.  And you can read more about Ina and her restaurant here in the Chicago Tribune, if you like.


Gone are the days when we blindly stuffed edible items into our mouths, little thinking of where precisely they might have originated.  An increased focus not just on our foods but where they come from has sparked a revolution across this great country of ours.  The perfect time, then, to consider reading Food and the City: Urban Agriculture and the New Food Revolution by Jennifer Cockrall-King.  How does Chicago play into this book?  Meet the world’s first operational vertical farm.  Located in a repurposed Chicago factory, the vertical farm has it all; vegetables, including mushrooms, growing in the basement; animal husbandry; even aquaculture!  The book looks at this and other urban communities that are taking their “food deserts” into their own hands.  You can learn more about the Chicago vertical farm here (as well as Google’s recent exit from the vertical farming landscape this week here).


Now this next book came out originally in 2011, but until someone comes up with something better I think we’ll hang on to it (outdated though it may be).  The Chicago Homegrown Cookbook: Local Food, Local Restaurants, Local Recipes by Heather Lalley  profiles thirty Chicago chefs who work with local farms to provide you with tasty fare. Organized by season there are also 100 recipes included so feel free to indulge in the occasional Blueberry Basil Cupcake with Vanilla Bean if the mood strikes.

And finally, last but by no means least . . .


Yep. That’s Never Put Ketchup on a Hot Dog by Bob Schwartz.

Need we say more?


The Evanston Literary Salon: Publishing Children’s Books in the 21st Century


Lots of people want to write and/or illustrate books for kids, but how do you actually go about doing so? What are some of the pitfalls and perks of the job? What should you avoid? What are the common myths?

This past Saturday, attendees of Evanston’s monthly Literary Salon (an event for adults with an interest in children’s literature) met Gemma Cooper (agent), Sara Shacter (Assistant Regional Advisor and author), Ruth Spiro (author), Eileen Meyer  (Network Representative and author), and Terri Murphy (Illustrator Coordinator and illustrator) of the Illinois chapter of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).  The panelists discussed the ins and outs of writing and illustrating for kids and since we are living in the 21st century the event was livestreamed.  Which means, we have a recording of what was said.


Many thanks to those who attended.  Our future Salons are as follows:

Saturday, March 26th at 2:00 p.m.– Ethics in Nonfiction for Kids

Do we hold our nonfiction for children to different standards than we do our informational texts for adults? When you’re trying to make something fun for kids to read, where do you draw the line between fact and fancy? Join two of the most experienced nonfiction authors for children, Candace Fleming and Judith Fradin, in a discussion of the increasingly complex and exciting world of nonfiction for children.


Saturday, April 30th at 1:00 p.m. – “On Beyond Narnia: Death and Theology in Children’s Literature”

Join children’s authors Jeanne Birdsall (THE PENDERWICKS IN SPRING, 2015) and N.D. Wilson (OUTLAWS OF TIME, 2016) for a discussion of writing children’s literature from both a Christian and a Post-Christian Humanism point of view.


Saturday, May 7th at 2:00 p.m. – “The Art of Enthusiasm”

Online gurus and children’s book evangelists Travis Jonker, Colby Sharp, and John Schumacher discuss promoting your favorite literature for kids, making the most of online resources, and spreading the culture of book love and enthusiasm amongst readers of every age.


Four Recommended Chicago/Evanston Literary Podcasts

NineLivesSometimes these blog posts feel a bit like dares.

The Challenge: Locate as many literary podcasts that are based out of the Chicago area as possible.

Special Bonus Points: Find one that’s recorded in Evanston, IL proper.

The search was on.  By which I mean, the Google search.  The iTunes search as well.  I love using databases for my research but to the best of my knowledge they have yet to develop a podcast-related database out there.

Now the problem with podcasts, and this is very much the same problem that you will find with blogs too, is that just because you’ve found one that doesn’t mean it’s actually active and live.  A lot of bloggers and podcasters do their work out of the golden, glorious good of their own little hearts.  And because no money is exchanging hands, they are free to stop at any time.  So, with that in mind . . .

Supplemental Challenge Requirement: Make sure the podcasts are all live.

Here then, are my results.  Please note that I consider storytelling a form of literature and have included storytelling podcasts as well (after all, a storyteller was responsible for starting Evanston Public Library in the first place).

Much of what I found actually had ties to live programming, which is interesting.  First up:

A little background is required for this one.  In Chicago you will find something billed as the city’s “one-and-only fiction reading series” called Fictlicious where both stories and music are created around a specific theme.  A podcast covers the full length of each live show but since the show only occurs four times a year the podcast continues in the meantime. Storytelling events are hotter than ever nationwide.  This just taps into that.

No johnny-come-lately podcast this.  Ben Tanzer’s been running TPWCYL since 2010.  Describing itself as focusing on, “conversations with authors and changemakers from around the country” the site is all Chicago, all the time.

But, you say, what of a local Evanston podcast?  Well, I don’t wanna brag but I found one, sweetheart.  Thanks to Northwestern, there is at least one in existence as of the publication of this post.

It’s young.  It’s hip.  It’s out of Northwestern.  The description reads, “A storytelling podcast for the Northwestern University community. Each episode brings several true, unscripted stories from Northwestern to listeners.”  It may only be ten months old but this podcast has spirit.

Special Note: He’s awful quiet about bringing it up but I’d like to mention that at least one EPL librarian has a local podcast worth subscribing to.  If you’ve a penchant for the latest information on the Chicago music scene, please be so good as to follow Now Is Podcast, presented by Ben Remsen.  Highly recommended.

Covers From the Past: Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Dig deep enough into the stacks of Evanston Public Library and you’ll find book jackets long since forgotten.  Today’s pick is that classic summer paean, Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury.  A beautiful novel and one that I return to constantly when the cold winds of February blow (like today), I thought I knew all its different book jackets.  Then I found the following in our stacks:

Dandelion Wine

Boy, howdy they don’t make ’em like THAT anymore!  Naturally we have more updated editions as well, but sometimes I enjoy looking at how people sold books in the past.

Shakespeare Comes to Illinois!


Well . . . sorta.  Small impediment to getting Shakespeare here in the States is the somewhat unavoidable fact that he is dead.  As a proverbial doorknob.  But that doesn’t mean that pieces of him don’t go walkabout from time to time.  Case in point, the national touring exhibition First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare.  This folio is a book called Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies and was originally published in 1623.  In it you can find 36 Shakespeare plays and it is generally considered to be the only reliable text for about twenty of his plays.  Now this shockingly rare folio (which contains every Shakespeare play, with the exception of the two lost ones) is on loan from the Folger Shakespeare Library.  For those of you who are curious the folio is on display at the Lake County Forest Preserve District’s Lake County Discovery Museum (Wauconda, IL) during the month of February, 2016.

Naturally, we Illinois libraries are just the teensiest bit psyched about this.  It is not every day that Shakespeare comes waltzing into your state, after all.

To properly honor The Bard, EPL is joining with libraries across the state in the collaborative reading and program initiative,#DiscoverWill: Illinois Libraries Celebrate Shakespeare’s First Folio.  Six programs doing Will justice will include discussions for adults, and crafts and films for teens. You can see the roster in whole here.

Naturally, I thought a booklist was in order as well.  Here then are some of our newest Shakespeare-related titles.

indexThe Millionaire and the Bard by Andrea Mays – Since the first folio is not too far away it seems now would be the perfect time to delve into its true-life story.  Mays’s book tells the miraculous and romantic story of the making of the First Folio, and of Henry Folger, the American industrialist whose thrilling pursuit of the book became a lifelong obsession.

Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned prequel?  In Beatrice and Benedick by Marina Fiorata we get the inside scoop on exactly what Much Ado About Nothing‘s lovers got up to before the events of the play.

Very much along the same lines is Howard Jacobson’s Shylock Is My Name.  A reimagining of the The Merchant of Venice, Jacobson set his tale in present-day suburban Manchester. Intrigued?  Check it out.

indexEver wonder how Shakespeare went global?  Worlds Elsewhere: Journeys Around Shakespeare’s Globe by Andrew Dickson seeks to answer that very question.  Or, as the book’s description puts it, “Dickson takes us on an extraordinary journey-from Hamlet performed by English actors tramping through Poland in the early 1600s to twenty-first century Shanghai, where Shashibiya survived Mao’s Cultural Revolution to become an honored Chinese author. En route we visit Nazi Germany, where Shakespeare became an unlikely favorite, and delve into the history of Bollywood, where Shakespearian stories helped give birth to Indian cinema.”

The Shakespeare Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained, edited by Stanley Wells, is one of those books that appeals to hard-core Shakespeare fans as well as more tentative newcomers.  Nothing wrong with that.

For more information about the folio’s trip check out the Chicago Tribune article Lake County museum the only Illinois stop for $6 million Shakespeare Collection.

And follow all the Illinois Shakespeare events at the Twitter hashtag #discoverwill.

The Wild and Scenic Film Festival: A Reading Guide


A question for you today, ladies and gents.  Where might you find the nation’s largest environmental film festival?  Would that be in New York?  In Los Angeles?  In Chicago proper?  NO!  As it just so happens, the largest environmental film festival happens right here in our very own Evanston, IL.  Called The Wild and Scenic Film Festival the event is now in its 14th year and showcases, “18 of the world’s most inspiring environmental films at the Evanston Ecology Center as part of the Evanston Environmental Association’s (EEA) Wild & Scenic Film Festival.”  According to the organizers themselves, “The 2016 festival will showcase films over two evenings, Friday, February 5 and Friday, February 19, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Evanston Ecology Center, located at 2024 McCormick Blvd.”

And it got me to thinking.  What every good film festival needs, DESERVES even, is an accompanying booklist for the interested attendees.  With that in mind, here is a listing of some of the books that work well in tandem with the featured films.

indexThe film Filtering the Ocean is described as a movie that, “highlights the problem of toxic microplastics and their effects on marine wildlife and human health.” So for those of you curious about the great Pacific garbage patch you might want to read Charles Moore’s Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans. Or, for more fun, Moby-Duck: The true story of 28,800 bath toys lost at sea and of the beachcombers, oceanographers, environmentalists, and fools, including the author, who went in search of them.  Which, you have to admit, is a great title.

In the film Mother of All Rivers activist Berta Cáceres “rallied her indigenous Lenca people to wage a grassroots protest that successfully pressured the government of Honduras and the world’s largest Chinese dam builder, SinoHydro, to withdraw from building the Agua Zarca Dam.”  Curious about China’s environmental history and current policies?  Check out When a Billion Chinese Jump: How China Will Save Mankind – Or Destroy It by Asia environmental correspondent for the Guardian, Jonathan Watts.  Also of interest might be By All Means Necessary: How China’s Resource Quest Is Changing the World by Elizabeth Economy and Michael Levi.

indexIt’s possible that after watching An Education: A Father/Daughter Trip of Discovery you will acquire a craving for all things Antarctican.  No worries.  EPL can feed that need.  Try the documentary Antarctica: A Year On Ice about the scientists, technicians and craftsmen who live on the bottom of the world year-round.  Antarctica: A Biography by David Day chronicles the land the people who have attempted to conquer it.  And Gabrielle Walker’s Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent contains all the wonder and majesty you would hope to expect.  Then top it all of with the honestly gorgeous book Penguins: The Ultimate Guide by Tui De Roy.

Is Lake Superior one of the world’s ten most unusual lakes?  The film Rabbit Island makes a case for it, and so does Lakes by Jeanne K. Hanson.

Got kids?  No reason to leave them out.  Here are some children’s titles as well.

To accompany the film Filtering a Plastic Ocean, check out Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman.  It’s a good companion to Loree Griffin Burns’s Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion.

indexAnd just as the film Fable of the Wolf considers the historic relationship between humans and wolves, the brand new children’s book From Wolf to Woof by Hudson Talbott considers the origins of domestication.

For the complete listing of the films in this year’s festival, be sure to check them out here.

Crazy Good Websites for Chicago Research


Adult services librarian Lorena discovered the following local history websites.  She says:

I’ve come across a few good websites for local history questions recently, and thought I would share them here.

  • First up is Explore Chicago Collections website, http://explore.chicagocollections.org/.  You can search by major historical events, by neighborhood, by city (including Evanston), by name, by institution, etc., and get a listing of digitized photos and links to archival collections relating to your subject.
  • For people looking specifically for pictures of old businesses or neighborhoods, try Chicago’s Extinct Businesses (both on their website and their Facebook page) and the Growing Up In Chicago Facebook page (for “Growing Up In Chicago,” be sure to look for the group with the name hyphenated in the link. There’s another similarly named group that is not as helpful.)  Both of these groups have really fascinating collections of historical photos of businesses and neighborhoods in the Chicago area.

Thanks, Lorena!