Tuesday, July 22, 2014


"In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. The smallest one was Madeline.” The words spark warm feelings in those of us who, years ago, haunted the library shelves looking for any copies of the classic Madeline books by Ludwig Bemelmans (1898-1962).  The books remain just as popular with the current picture book set.  Look for them at the Monrovia Public Library.

Madeline was published in 1939 and this year the book celebrates its 75th anniversary. The Austrian-born author moved to America after WWI and his first children’s book debuted in 1934. His publisher made an incredible error when he rejected Madeline and it was soon chosen by another publisher. Bemelmans eventually wrote and illustrated 5 titles starring the intrepid French school girl and his books have sold millions. The author, who served in the U.S. Army, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Written in rhyme, all of these stories are about a Parisian boarding school supervised by nuns who encourage order. Madeline, of course, is the one spunky girl continually stepping out of line to embrace new adventures.  Who cannot forget when she confronted a jungle beast?  “And to the tiger in the zoo Madeline just said pooh pooh.” Adults can check out Madeline, Madeline’s Rescue, Madeline and the Bad Hat, Madeline and the Gypsies, Madeline in London, read them, and then have the pleasure of sharing them with a new generation of fans.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


In the Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck called Route 66, which ran from Illinois to California, the Mother Road. In Monrovia the road ran along Foothill Boulevard and the Aztec Hotel is just one of the local sites where drivers stopped along the way. Our nostalgia for this highway can be renewed by visiting the Autry National Center. Its exhibit, Route 66: the Road and the Romance, runs through January 4, 2015. Monrovia Public Library can also help you recall Route 66 memories through music and books.
Nat King Cole’s classic version of the Booby Troupe song (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, is on The Very Best of Nat King Cole in the library’s music CD collection.

Books include Route 66, The Mother Road by Michael Wallis. With great illustrations, including period maps and photos of the gas stations, eateries and motels along the way, this is a book which you'll want to go through twice—once to look at the pictures and a second time to read. 

Tom Teague wrote Searching for 66 after traveling from Chicago to Santa Monica, interviewing people who had worked and lived along the Mother Road.  

Route 66 Main Street USA by Nick Freeth shares the road’s history and anecdotes.

Quinta Scott’s Along Route 66, with its forlorn pictures of the abandoned and down-on-their-luck buildings and businesses that remain long after major inter-state highways bypassed Route 66, captures the spirit of the road and our longing for the romance of a by-gone time.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


She led the most incredible life—from being an abused child, to dancing and acting off Broadway, to writing autobiographies that stir our souls and aspirations, to being a poet and a professor. Maya Angelou, 1928-2014, died last month and the obituaries highlighted her stature as an African-American who burned bright, continually reaching to achieve every kind of goal and honor, all the while publicly exploring, her own thoughts and feelings as an author and speaker. The Monrovia Public Library owns Maya Angelou’s beautifully written works.
She gained immediate acclaim in 1969 with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings about her childhood and teen years.  Not afraid to discuss her personal life, her seven autobiographies, including Gather Together in My Name, Singin’ and Swingin’ and Getting’ Merry Like Christmas and The Heart of a Woman covered the years to 1968. Her last autobiography Mom & Me & Mom was a look at her whole life. The books do not need to be read in order to be enjoyed, but readers might like the continuity.

One of life’s delights is to hear Maya Angelou recite her own poetry, which you can on the CD Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Die.  Her most familiar poem might be On the Pulse of Morning, which she recited at President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration.  

Monday, July 14, 2014


Who knew that the term self-help came from an actual book of the same name written by Samuel Smiles and published in 1859? Books that help people improve their lives (win friends, influence people, lose weight, exercise more) have always been popular with patrons at the Monrovia Public Library. Two recent titles focus on our working lives.
Arianna Huffington, famous for her Greek accent and her newsy website The Huffington Post (www.huffingtonpost.com), has written a book called Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being and Wonder aimed at women who are working long hours to get ahead in their jobs, but have little time or energy for themselves, family, friends, or interests. Huffington proposes a life freer of stress and one that promotes rest, becoming unplugged from computers and concentrating on what is really important. The author tries to offer practical advice while using stories of real people to get her points across.

Remember Jane Pauley? When the longtime host of the Today show gave up her job she spent years trying to figure out what to do with her life.  Her book, Your Life Calling: Re-imagining the Rest of Your Life, is aimed at those baby boomers of a certain age who are still working, but on the cusp of retirement and wondering what to do with the next phase of their lives. Full of anecdotes and positive information, the book encourages readers to explore new opportunities in pursuit of more satisfying work lives.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Our July 4th celebrations have passed and now we are preoccupied with putting all our red, white and blue dishes and tablecloths away, but we're still thinking about summer recipes. What would be new and easy for those hot days when we want something tasty, but don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen? The Monrovia Library not only has a great cook book section, but also has some wonderful magazines devoted to food. Why not check out Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, Food and Wine, Martha Stewart Living and Vegetarian Times.  Just like books, you can borrow magazines for three weeks.

And, there are some great new recipe books. Even if you're not a fan of the Food Network, you can enjoy the titles published under its banner. Two new ones are Food Network Magazine 1,000 Easy Recipes and Food Network Magazine Great Easy Meals. These books have very good color photos, the step-by-step instructions are simple and the ingredients are not far out.

Another new book about food is Creamy and Crunchy: The Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All American Food by John Krampner. This everything-you want-to-know-about-peanut-butter book is a cultural, culinary, scientific and economic history that has surprising facts (Elvis liked peanut butter, bacon and banana sandwiches) and recipes. And, on those humid days when life is more of an effort, all you need for a great meal is jars of peanut butter and jelly and a spoon.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Sometimes bestselling authors don’t seem to try as hard once they feel sure their fans will always read their books. We can look to our favorite writers and acknowledge that once in a while they write a dud or a book that is formulaic.
One author who has been our radar since his first book was published (Carrie in 1973), but still seems to write really original works and try new genres, is Stephen King. Readers who have not dipped into King lately might say…oh, he is the author who writes supernatural books or… I have not read him for years. King’s books can be found on the shelves of the Monrovia Public Library and now might be a great time to check out his latest novels, which are mysteries.

His newest is Mr. Mercedes, which has received great reviews and is being celebrated as one of the books to read this summer. The perpetrator in this story is not some otherworldly being, but a psycho who plows his car into a line of people, killing several of them before he escapes. A retired cop, depressed that he had never been able to arrest the killer, becomes involved again and finds an unusual place to track this criminal. A page-turning thriller, this book is for mystery lovers who like quick-paced stories. 

Joyland is another edge of your seat mystery, but one that begins as a coming of age story and a romance. A man nostalgically recalls the summer he worked at an amusement park and learned that a woman had been murdered on one of the rides. With its unpredictable and satisfying ending, Joyland is a unique thriller.