March 2020 Prime Picks
America's Test Kitchen
Two outstanding cookbooks offer appealing blends of color photos, attractive flavors, and virtually foolproof preparation and presentation methods that cooks at all levels will appreciate.
Many chocolate cookbooks are on the market, but what makes Everything Chocolate: A Decadent Collection of Morning Pastries, Nostalgic Sweets, and Showstopping Desserts (978194703086, $35.00) a standout is its attention to some 200 recipes that expand the range of chocolate desserts, whether it be with Oatmeal Fudge Bars and Chocolate Passion Fruit Tart to Chocolate-Lavender Napoleons.
Step-by-step color photos cover all the preparation approaches. The numbered steps are very clear while the 'why this recipe works' discussions review the testing process and why each recipe produces superior results to competing recipes.
Everything Chocolate holds a satisfying blend of traditional fare and original and new dishes, making it a fine juxtaposition of chocolate uses and approaches that will help all cooks expand their knowledge of how to work with chocolate and combine it with other flavors.
Cook's Country's Big Flavors from Italian America: Family-Style Favorites from Coast to Coast (9781945256790, $29.99) gathers Italian innovations from restaurants, delis, and bakeries across America, and is especially recommended for those who want to expand their knowledge of Italian cooking.
From a Baked Ricotta Chicken which modifies the dish to avoid usually-complicated steps and chooses to layer the chicken with ingredients rather stuffing it to a classic Utica Greens regional New York favorite which represents the best version of a regional dish which is embellished with capicola, hot cherry peppers, and Romano cheese, each dish takes a classic Italian approach to flavors and presentation. All represent the best recipe for that food, adjusted by the testers of America's Test Kitchen.
Both books excel in color photos, insights into cooking revealed by discussions of how and why each recipe works, and recipes that will appeal to home cooks.
Best Actress: The History of Oscar-Winning Women
Rutgers University Press
Best Actress: The History of Oscar-Winning Women uses the history of Oscar award winners to trace the rise of women in Hollywood, providing a focus on the first 75 women to win the Best Actress category over a 90-year period.
Vintage black and white and color photos come from movie stills, Oscar victory celebrations, and Hollywood archives to provide visual embellishments that range from smaller images to full-page presentations.
Each actress receives a biographical sketch that places her roles and award-winning history in perspective, while discussions of each actresses's psyche, approach to acting, and groundbreaking work offer background Hollywood history essential for any serious understanding of the industry's overall history and evolution.
No women's history or performing arts library should be without this in-depth survey.
Dingbat Love offers graphic novel collections a rare opportunity: two complete, unpublished Jack Kirby stories from the 1970s that represent his final project, The Dingbats of Danger Street, newly colored for this book.
Prior Kirby fans well know of his influence and importance in the industry, but will be surprised to realize that this popular artist has anything new and previously unpublished.
Included with the iconic tales are insights on why these projects haven't appeared before, concept art and unlinked pencil drawings from Dingbats, and foldout pages of art works.
Kirby fans should consider this a 'must' treasure trove culminating Kirby's career. No more discoveries likely remain, and this volume nicely rounds out the Dingbat collection.
University of New Mexico Press
Dreams Unreal: The Genesis of the Psychedelic Rock Poster covers the evolution of the psychedelic rock poster from its growth as a San Francisco institution to how it influenced art beyond its initial musical roots.
From the mid 1960s to the 70s, San Francisco spawned a music scene that was at once vivid, outrageous, and influential. This scene required an equally progressive form of art to represent it, and the psychedelic rock poster filled this need.
Titus O'Brien's detailed history of not just the poster art but the artists who created them provides essential details not available in most other art books on the subject, which tend to focus on the posters alone.
Details about those who created, promoted, and fostered this artistic community offer the depth needed to understand not only how the posters evolved, but the decades of art that influenced their making.
California and arts collections alike will find Dreams Unreal an outstanding survey sporting a bargain price tag, considering its wealth of colorful visual images and depth of historical review.
Fra Angelico and the Rise of the Florentine
Carl Brandon Strehike and Anna González Mozo
Thames & Hudson
Fra Angelico and the Rise of the Florentine Renaissance is a 'must' for any serious arts collection interested in Renaissance masters, narrowing its focus to the art of Fra Angelico, one of the top artists of the Florentine Renaissance of the fifteenth century.
His religion, artistic and social influences, and his impact on fellow Florentine Renaissance artists is covered in a survey that focuses on his relationship with his contemporary, Masaccio.
As chapters reveal Angelico's influences and approaches, based on new research available for the first time, artists receive a technical history especially notable for its insights into the Renaissance's artistic challenges.
Curator Carl Brandon Strehlke's essays examine Florence's atmosphere and evolution and pair well with researcher Ana González Mozo's more technical approach, while gorgeous color images of paintings, sculptures, and art pieces accompany sketches and details critical to understanding the Florentine Renaissance environment.
Inspired by Endangered Species
Donna Marcinkowski DeSoto
Inspired by Endangered Species: Animals and Plants in Fabric Perspectives collects fabric images of nearly two hundred endangered species, pairing plant and animal facts to compliment the art as it examines not just artistic representations, but the natural history of each threatened species, from Asiatic Lions to the Singapore Freshwater Crab.
Its gorgeous illustrations should earn Inspired by Endangered Species a key place in arts libraries, but it should be mentioned that natural history libraries need this book, as well. It's packed with facts on species revival efforts, public education, conservation laws, and what it would take to preserve each species.
Visually gorgeous and filled with important details specific to each species, Inspired by Endangered Species represents the intersection of conservation research and art at its best.
The Art Renewal Center
ACC Art Books
Intentional Realism: 14th International ARC Salon holds more than a thousand images from the 21st Century Realist Art Movement and is a highly recommended reference for fine arts collections that want to cover this movement and its foundation works.
This collection of the winners and finalists of the 14th International ARC Salon Competition spans the globe to represent one of the most diverse, largest contests in the world. The contest is sponsored by the Art Renewal Center, which promotes the visual arts.
Intentional Realism is packed with color images of all sizes, from full-page representations to half-page art, and includes third place winners and others from different categories, from portraiture to life and landscape art.
The result is a powerful, highly recommend volume representing a signature collection of Realist Art in modern times.
Those Were the Days
Rutgers University Press
Those Were the Days: Why All in the Family Still Matters provides performing arts and sociology audiences with an analysis of the sitcom's characters, social messages, and impact during its airing from 1971 to 1979, considering why All in the Family appealed to such a broad segment of American views across generations.
The broader topic of modern television history and sitcoms receives inspections that go beyond a single show's message and presentation, using the All in the Family phenomenon as a contrast for other television show approaches.
From how each character evolved to the family's resemblance to real-life changes and developing social awareness, Those Were the Days provides a solid study that will serve as discussion material for any media studies or American social history classroom.
The Future is Faster Than You Think
Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler
Simon and Schuster
The Future is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industries and Our Lives talks about the speed of technological transformation and its impact on not just daily lives. It surveys the potential clashes it will create as that speed doubles in power, rippling into economic changes.
Peter H. Diamandis is a space entrepreneur and innovator who joins with Steven Kotler, a peak performance expert, to consider the increasing pace of these changes and how they challenge conventional human abilities to adapt.
More than just a discussion of theory and possibility, The Future is Faster Than You Think uses key breakthrough technologies and industries as concrete examples of such changes, converging technologies, and the benefits and risks they promise.
No social issues collection should be without this hard-hitting discussion.
The Stars in Our Pockets
The Stars in Our Pockets: Getting Lost and Sometimes Found in the Digital Age asks what happens to consciousness when people forgo life and the world for the screen, whether this involves television or computers.
Howard Axelrod is in a unique position to pose this question: in his twenties, a freak accident left him blind in one eye, and he retreated to the woods of Vermont and lived for two years with no TV, computer, and few outside influences. When he returned to society, the digital world had evolved to change everything.
His survey is a meditation on consciousness, awareness, and different paces of living life in the digital age. This offers a powerful reflection on the spiritual self, social evolution, and the influence of technology as it defines not just the human experience, but perceptions of the world around us.
California Exposures: Envisioning Myth and History combines photos by Jesse Amble White with a sweeping historical survey that focuses on California's myths, realities, and the stories behind images which have become quintessential reflections of California culture and experience.
The father and son team of writer and photographer focus on separating myths from facts, capturing present-day California scenes with a sense of the state's past and including reflections on the fantasies, ideals, and realities of events and different peoples in the state.
From rivers entwined with settler lives to vintage and modern image contrasts in sepia, black and white, and color, California Exposures considers and captures a sense of time, place, and different social and political conflicts. Abandoned houses and histories flush out the state's better-known stories of crises and confrontations, whether they be battles over water rights or the legacy of mining debris.
This sweeping blend of history and contrasts between past and present images and experiences creates a reference that should be in any California history or arts library.
Living with Wildfire
No homeowner living in suburban or rural areas prone to fire should be without Living with Wildfire: A Homeowner's Handbook. It builds a strong case for defensive landscaping, and while its discussion will particularly interest gardeners, anyone interested in preparing for fire season needs its advice.
Maureen Gilmer is a landscaping expert who goes beyond plant recommendations to address other homeowner options, from technology that can turn a swimming pool into an automatic roof sprinkler via smartphone to pumping fire water when the electricity goes out.
The bulk of the book's focus is on managing native vegetation, choosing fire-resistant plants, and assessing the garden qualities and fire prevention values of ornamental, herb, and flowering plants and trees. This makes for a specific, invaluable guide whose emphasis on defensible space and landscaping puts an element of control back into the hands of rural dwellers.
Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America provides an in-depth survey of the little-known history of the Green Book, which helped African Americans travel outside of white-owned businesses that kept them from eating, sleeping in a hotel, or even buying gas.
Obtaining a listing in the Green Book meant confronting the forces of white supremacy and prejudice and also represented a stand against racism and segregation, so the individuals and businesses who chose to be in this resource were taking a big risk in order to provide black travelers with a safe solution to the problem of travel amenities.
From how Victor Green evolved the guide to its contents and purposes, Overground Railroad is a powerful story of segregation in America and should be a staple in any collection strong in either American or African American history.
Thank Forward: A Gratitude Action Kit
Julie Shields and Mia Logan, PhD
Thank Forward: A Gratitude Action Kit provides a 21-card deck reminiscent of tarot cards, but with themes and suggestions that encourage gratitude and sharing.
It represents an encouraging, interactive method of transmitting gratitude to those in one's life, offering suggestions for sharing that are further reinforced by the suggestion to share experiences at the www.ThankForward.com website.
Lovely art adorns admonitions which provide insights connecting personal experience with a broader appreciation for life, cultivating gratitude and its dissemination.
Tomorrow's Woman is Greta Bellamacina's first U.S. poetry collection, and blends autobiographical and social inspection as her poems consider motherhood, social issues, gender identity, and more.
Her impressions of life are often surrealistic observations heavy in image and movement: "I imagine there is a wind/that is blowing away,/but always arriving at full new birthdays/not dead but flying/pouring and pouring transparent stars/through the great surrendering ark skies..."
Futuristic in its analysis and tone, astute in its observations, and strong in a style of free verse that captures the renaissance of women approaching the event horizons of their lives, Tomorrow's Woman is a gathering of observations and experiences that will especially attract poetry readers looking for powerful images, emotions, and relationships between written word and life experience.
Welcome to Arkham Asylum
Sharon Packer, MD and Daniel R. Fredrick, Editors
Welcome to Arkham Asylum: Essays on Psychiatry and the Gotham City Institution gathers 25 new essays examining the rise of the Arkham franchise of films, TV series, videos, comic books, and more, considering its examination of modern psychiatry and its portraits of the mentally ill.
From Arkham's involvement in influencing anti-psychiatric movements to novels and films from DC and other worlds, this collection excels in a scholarly, well-referenced survey that considers the wide-ranging cultural impact and influence of the Arkham Asylum.
Welcome to Arkham Asylum has moved far from its original incarnation as a monograph considering Medical Controversies in Superhero Stories. Here, it offers an involving literary and multidisciplinary approach designed to appeal to a large audience of college readers interested in the Arkham legacy.
Tooth Fairy in Training by Michelle Robinson (9781536209396, $16.99) takes a different approach to the tooth fairy saga in exploring the dilemma of animals who also lose teeth and need the tooth fairy's help.
Briony May Smith's fun drawings provide large-sized, colorful pictures emphasizing environment and fairy training processes as Robinson's story moves from a sister's instructions to how a young fairy obeys the rules about approaching different sleeping animals and their teeth.
Kids will find Tooth Fairy in Training a fun, appealing story with vibrant pictures and a whimsical take-off on the usual tooth fairy approach.
Arthur Yorinks's One Mean Ant (9780763683948, $16.99) receives fun drawings by Sergio Ruzzier, who captures the sullen countenance of a little ant that is so grumpy, everything shrivels up around him when he walks by.
Kids with good reading skills will appreciate this story of the ant's new discoveries when he becomes lost in the desert and meets a fly who changes his life.
The fly speaks Antish, so they can communicate, but whereas the mean little ant is lost, the fly is not ("I just used to be someplace else, and now I'm here.").
Kids will appreciate this engaging story of an unusual friendship and life-changing encounter.
Fred's Big Feelings
Simon and Schuster
Fred's Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers is recommended reading for ages 4-8 looking for picture book biographies of modern heroes, and follows the evolution of a shy boy who is initially afraid to express his feelings.
His wise grandfather's help leads him to grow up to create Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, emphasizing community and communication, but when his production is threatened by a cut to its funding, he reflects these lessons in his own life by journeying to a hearing on Capitol Hill to save his show.
Warm, realistic drawings by Brigette Barrager accompany a story that requires only good reading skills and an interest in biographies of modern public figures to prove accessible and engrossing.
I Am Goose!
I Am Goose! is illustrated by Vanya Nastanlieva, who provides lovely and engaging drawings for the story of a silly goose who tries to join in on a common game.
Can a goose win in 'duck-duck-goose'? Goose can't calm down when faced with a host of animal possibilities and game snafus, and begins ruining the game with time-outs and other special requirements.
Young readers and read-aloud parents receive a delightfully easy exploration that revolves around an indignant goose's declaration of identity and what qualities make a goose in this whimsical read, which will benefit from a young reader's initial understanding of the duck-duck-goose game's premise.
These two new books are fine recommendations promising lasting value to parents and libraries alike.
Tomorrow I'll be Kind by Jessica Hische (9781534787042, $17.99) teaches kids the basics about kindness and generosity, encouraging patience, peace, and understanding in young picture book audiences.
Admonitions about being helpful, taking the lead, persevering against all odds, and being honest are imparted through pictures and single, large-size embellished words.
These words may require parental interpretation, but the discussions which are encouraged by this picture book will prove rewarding and insightful.
Anna Pignataro's The Heart of a Whale (9781984836274, $17.99) tells of Whale, who sings a song of hope and happiness to his fellow sea creatures.
They all appreciate his message, but deep in his heart, Whale doesn't trust his own words, and feels an emptiness which his music belays.
When he lets out a sad sigh, the ocean carries it to the perfect place of healing.
Lovely watercolors enhance a moving story.
Sleeping Bear Press
Two new releases are outstanding reads, providing picture books that are engaging and enlightening.
Ages 4-8 will relish Helen L. Wilbur's You Are Mine, Porcupine (9781534110038, $16.99), illustrated with fine drawings by Stephanie Fizer Coleman. This STEM-based book blends science and rhyme to explore the life of a porcupine.
Kids will find it teaches facts about porcupines in a fun, memorable manner that considers not only their unique form of person protection, but their habitats and habits. The full-page color drawings are whimsical and enjoyable.
Shana Keller's Bread for Words (9781534110014, $16.99) will appeal to ages 6-10 with its picture book biography about Frederick Douglass.
The story focuses on his childhood and how he learned about freedom and equality, creating the foundations of conviction that would lead to his influential role as an educated adult.
Learning to read and write, something forbidden to him in his youth, were cornerstones of the struggle, and Keller's exploration juxtaposes Douglass's own writings with biographical background.
Kids with good reading skills looking for picture book biographies for report purposes will find Bread for Words approachable, enlightening, and educational.
Swim Swim Sink
Swim Swim Sink provides the very simple picture book story of a happy duck who hatches three eggs and raises three tiny ducks.
Adults who choose this gentle, easy reader for its sound effects opportunities and simple counting story of a new, happy flock will find it a satisfyingly unexpected, fun story as the rhyme is broken by one little duck who sinks instead of swims.
What can he do to join his family?
Fun drawings accompanying increasingly hilarious solutions to the problem to keep youngsters guessing and parents involved.
Three new books make for appealing reading choices for young picture book readers and those slightly older, who will appreciate their messages and presentations.
Eise Gravel's The Bat (9780735266483, $10.99) and The Cockroach (9780735266421, $10.99) each profile 'disgusting little creatures' that have fascinated the author since childhood.
The Bat pairs bat facts with full-page drawings that are funny and paired with personalized bat insights. The note about bats not appreciating the cold, for one example, is accompanied by a shivering bat picture and his admonition that "I'm not really a fan of winter sports."
The Cockroach also dislikes the cold and loves heat, which is why she'll be found in restaurants, hotels, and indoors. "I just love room service!" she extols while enjoying a luxury hotel setting.
Both couch their facts in fun representations designed to keep ages 6-9 engaged and laughing while learning some basic facts about each creature.
Janet Hill's Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House (9781770499249, $17.99) deserves ongoing mention as a special pick for ages 12 and up, providing young adults with a vivid story enhanced with colorful full-page picture panels throughout.
Lucy isn't a child any longer. She graduated high school a year ago, but still hasn't discovered what she'd like to be in life. When she stumbles into a college arts program, moves to a small town, and takes up residence in the old 1876 mansion her father buys for her, trouble begins as she struggles to solve its mysteries.
Kids who enjoy eerie mysteries and who aren't put off by a protagonist older than the usual young adult will find Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House an enchanting blend of mystery, supernatural investigation, and thriller, embellished by gorgeous colorful drawings peppered throughout.