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A Potpourri of Picks

One of the perks of working at the library is when our patrons share what they are reading with us. Until we are back together, we thought we’d share our current reads as well as some other favorites.

Henry, Himself by Stewart O’Nan is a beautifully written prequel to his earlier novels, Wish You Were Here and Emily, Alone. In Emily Alone, we meet Emily Maxwell, newly widowed and adjusting to life without Henry. In this current novel, we get a chance to walk with Henry, a seventy-five year old retired Pittsburgher, through the rhythm of an ordinary year in the life of an ordinary man. There are no heart pounding scenes, no cliff hangers to be found here, just the steady beat of someone living out his final years to the best of his abilities. Henry’s character will resonate with many who may recognize their own fathers, grandfathers, or husbands in him, men who worked hard at their jobs or careers and in their homes, making a better life for their families. Henry, like many men of his era, possess a fierce love for his family and willingly sacrifices his own wants and desires for what he perceives as a good life. Like so many men of his time, Henry isn’t comfortable with expressing his love with words and he struggles to understand his children and their life choices, but his love is always there, quiet, steadfast and enduring. While Henry reminisces and may long for times past, he nevertheless soldiers on and tries his best to adjust to changing times.

It is in the relationship between Henry and Emily, married for forty-nine years, where O’Nan’s writing truly shines. We witness time and time again, without sentimentality or preaching, what it takes to stay faithful and committed in a marriage. The give and take, the finishing each other’s sentences, the need for physical space apart (the kitchen is strictly Emily’s domain; the basement workshop, Henry’s) make these characters feel like they live right next door. Or maybe that is because of the many references to Pittsburgh. You get to ride the Incline up to Mount Washington for the Maxwell’s Valentine’s Day dinner, attend a funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oakland, and make a few trips to the Giant Eagle (actually referred to as the Jyggle more than once) in East Liberty. Though local in flavor, the message is far reaching. Aging is inevitable, but life and how you live it at any stage, is up to you.

Here’s a potpourri of other titles you may enjoy during social distancing:

Similar in theme to the above pick, Akin by Emma Donoghue brings us the story of Noah Selvaggio, a retired New York City professor and recent widower. Heartbreaking circumstances require that Noah take his eleven year old street-smart great nephew, whom he has never met, on his much anticipated trip to the French Riviera, to delve into his family’s history.  The two generations struggle mightily to form a bond against the backdrop of quaint French towns and hidden family secrets.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a great read if you’re feeling confined by the quarantine. You’ll empathize with the students at Hailsham, a lovely boarding school in an idyllic country setting. While the school seems to provide the students with an ideal education tailored to each individual, a few students get restless with the constraints placed on them and start exploring outside their school walls. What ensues will leave you with memories of this novel and many points to ponder long after you turn the last page. If you are not in the mood for contemplation, let this one wait until later.

For a quick read, you may enjoy My Sister, The Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite. Part mystery, part satire, part character study, this delicious book set in Nigeria can be devoured in one sitting. It takes the bonds between sisters to a whole new level.

For anyone you may have missed it, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is a personal favorite. If you have to live out your life under house arrest, you may as well do it in style! Follow the story of Count Alexander Rostov, aristocrat and all around true gentleman, as he is sequestered at the Metropol Hotel in Russia beginning in the 1920s. This would make a great movie!

Non- fiction fans who enjoy delving into social issues should read Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond. Especially timely now, this book is an education into issues of affordable housing, fair pay, and homelessness. The real life struggles of ordinary people, renters and building owners, trying to get by and get ahead, are eye and heart openers.

While it may be hard to currently sympathize with the self imposed social distancing of the agoraphobic protagonist in Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple, this book is an entertaining read. While poking fun at suburban social climbing and over achievers in Silicon Valley, it also lays bare the lengths a parent is willing to go for a shot at their child’s happiness.

Kids’ Book Club Review – Part 3

Bayne Library Kids' Book Club members

Today we turn the spotlight on Maryam, the girl who started our book club and has participated in every meeting since the beginning. Maryam really gets into the spirit of the books and she usually provides a tasty treat for us to share that ties into the book we are discussing. She is particularly fond of dragon stories with lots of adventure. Like some other book club members, she is a huge fan of the Wings of Fire book series by Tui T. Sutherland. Maryam has just finished the thirteenth book in this series, The Poison Jungle.

Poison Jungle book cover

Here’s what Maryam has to say. “I love the Wings of Fire series because it’s an adventure story and I love those. After the end of every five books there are a new set of characters. The story takes place in Pyrha. The tribes are: SeaWings, SkyWings, SandWings, MudWings, IcewWings, RainWings, and  NightWings. The series is adventurous and keeps me interested. I have finished all of the books and I am excited for a new one! I hope you enjoy the books as much as I have.”

Missing You – Week 8

More Adventures of “What is Ted Reading?”

Until we can visit the zoo again, let’s enjoy some stories like Put Me in the Zoo by Robert Lopshire. For more animal explorations you might want to try the National Geographic Kids website. Your budding zoologists will love it. They can learn about animals from all over the world, view short videos of animals in their natural habitats, take quizzes to test animal knowledge, even play games. Feeling crafty? Visit our Animal Crafts Pinterest board.

Wednesday 101-Houseplants

Growing up in the late 70s everyone had that neighbor who had a window full of houseplants and macrame. Ours also wore wooden clogs and ate whole grain bread. It turns out she was onto something. Houseplants (and clogs and whole grain) are back in big way and have become a staple of fashionable homes all over social media. And why not! Houseplants help clean the air, increase contentedness, and give you someone to talk to over these long months in quarantine. Whether your thumb is black or green here are some tips to get you growing!

Hilton Carter has become legendary on social media for his plant packed home. In his new series, The Plant Doctor, he talks about caring for specific types of plants, as well as giving tips on general plant care.

CleverBloom is not only pretty, but also packed with care tips, tricks, and fun projects for plant parents.

Old school in style, Houseplant 411 is one of the best sites for identification and care tips.

For a more science-based and thorough approach to plant care, check out House Plant Journal. His YouTube Channel is also amazing and this video on bright, indirect, light is a great explanation of this vague instruction on almost every houseplant label.

Got mystery plants? Use the Leafsnap app to help you identify them!

If you have furry friends at home who are plant munchers, be sure to check the ASPCA list of Poisonous Plants.

Did we miss your favorite resource? What’s your favorite houseplant? Tell us on social media or email us

Fifth Virtual Installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park

London Plane Tree – Platanus x acerifolia​

Bayne Park’s London Plane tree can be found at the edge of the parking lot near the gazebo with long limbs outstretching towards Bayne Library. It is easily recognizable during any season due to the exfoliating bark which makes its trunk and branches look as if they are covered in military camouflage.

The London Plane tree is a hybrid between two tree species, the American Sycamore and the Oriental Plane tree.  Exactly how this combination of species from widely divergent parts of the globe occurred is lost to time, but we do know that the London Plane trees were praised for their ability to tolerate the nastiest smog and grime of London during the Industrial Revolution, and thus they became a hardy option for city and park trees.

 The London Plane tree is so similar in appearance to its American parent the Sycamore, its identity is frequently mistaken.

The flaking bark peels away in sections or sheets, leaving a dappled trunk. This occurs because the bark lacks elasticity. 

Pealing bark helps to clears away pollution that would otherwise block gas exchange through the lenticels, which are small pores through the protective outer bark that allow gas exchange between the living tissue of the inner bark and the surrounding air.

In addition to helping the tree eliminate harmful insects and parasites, the exfoliating bark also discourages vines from overtaking the tree.

New leaves in spring are tomentose (covered in a white layer of matted wooly down) which can persist on the bottom surface of the leaf, with the top of the leaf developing and otter-like sleekness as it ages. The sleekness limits the attachment of dirt and grime onto the leaf surface and allows rain to easily rinse away anything that does attach. This optimizes photosynthesis and the health of the tree.

Female flowers give way to fuzzy spherical fruiting balls, about the size of a ping pong ball, which typically hangs in pairs from long pendulous stalks.  They ripen to brown in October and can last into winter. Each fruiting ball consists of numerous, densely-packed, tiny seed-like fruits called achenes.  As time progresses, the fruiting balls disintegrate as wind disperses their seeds, often in downy tufts. The seeds provide food for wildlife such as Carolina Chickadees, American Goldfinches, Purple Finches, Mallard Ducks, Beavers, Muskrats and Squirrels.​

The leaves of the London Plane tree turn a beautiful yellow hue in the autumn.  When the leaves fall look at the base of the petioles, the stalk that joins a leaf to a stem, to see the cup-shaped end which concealed the bud. As the bud increased in size it forced the leaf to fall.

The London Plane tree is valued greatly for its shade and majestic stature, while the wood creates highly sought after lacewood when quarter-sawn. The lacy pattern is due to its cellular structures of medullary rays that reveal dark reddish-brown flecks against a lighter background. Lacewood is used in many fine woodworking projects such as carving, turning, inlays, furniture, and even architectural elements.

Book Recommendation:

Sprout Lands: Tending the Endless Gift of Trees by Arborist William Bryant Logan, who trained forty London Plane trees in the central plaza in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art using a historic pruning technique known as pollarding. The technique allows maximum sun penetration in the winter to warm the plaza and maximum shade in the summer for cooling, and also limits the height of the trees to maintain the view of the building facade.

Thank you for joining us and virtually meeting our London Plane tree at Bayne Park today. We hope this virtual experience helps you to feel connected to the trees and we encourage you to visit the trees in person once Bayne Park reopens.

Check back every Treesday Tuesday for the next virtual installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park!


We all know the importance of reading to our children before bed to encourage strong reading skills, but how can we help them with their math skills?

Why not try a math story? Tumblemath features eBooks that explore elementary math concepts from counting, to fractions, to time and temperature. Its a great way to reinforce what they are learning in school in a new and different way!

Kids’ Book Club Review #2

Meet sixth grader, Phineas, a loyal book club member, avid reader, and as you can see, always a good sport! Phineas has been an enthusiastic participant from the beginning and has made some great book recommendations. Among them are one of his favorites, Wings of Fire by Tui T. Sutherland.

Wings of Fire Book Cover

Here’s what Phineas says, “I like Wings of Fire because it’s a great look into a fantasy world and it has a great story. It’s about young dragons who need to save the world. My favorites are Clay, Glory, Tsunami, and Sunny, and Starflight. They don’t quite save the world in the first book. There is a war they are trying to stop. It’s an all around great book that I couldn’t stop reading.”

Phineas is currently reading Wings of Fire The Hidden Kingdom, book three of the Dragonet Prophecy. Visit for a short video with author, Tui T. Sutherland. There are also games, printable materials and more. It’s a great place to explore all of the titles in this series, including the first three books in graphic novel form. Who knows, you might not be able to stop reading them either!

Bonus Review: Bayne Library Kids’ Book Club junior member, and Phineas’ sister, Dari, is also a super star reader! During quarantine, Dari recommends The Box Car Children Series.

Nonfiction Spotlight

Reading is important because, if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything. – Tomie Depaola

While you are spending so much time at home, you might as well learn that you aren’t as alone as you think.  Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live by Rob R. Dunn. 

Proving that truth can be better than fiction, tune into the bizarre Milli Vanilli-esque (I really dated myself with that reference) scenario featured in Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Handyman. (A Memoir)

Delve into the intricacies of the lethal forces at play on Everest ranging from the egos of individuals, pushes by the tour guides toward a successful summit for the betterent of their business record, and communication failures among different groups with Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.

You will feel as if you are living through every moment of this local tragedy as you soak up the incredible descriptions of the unfolding events in The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough. 

Feeling confined? You may relate to Elizabeth as she observes a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand while she is bedridden due to an illness.  Join her as she gains greater understanding of her own restricted place in the world in The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey. (A Memoir)

Exceptionally written and powerfully poignant, this is a must read.  Know My Name by Chanel Miller. (A Memoir)

Travel beneath Earth’s topsoil into caves, catacombs, sinkholes, mines, meltwater moulins, and whirlpools in Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane.

Step onto the Appalachian Trail from the comfort of home.  Without even one blister, you  will get to experience all the humor that accompanies the trials and tribulations of A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson.

Looking for an informative book you can read in short bursts?  Each informative chapter focuses on an extinct or critically endangered species and the scientists who study them.  You will never look at the world the same way after reading The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert.

Full of unforgettable stories and scientific information about a lesser-known delectable fruit native to our region, Pawpaw in Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit by Andrew Moore will have you longing to go way down yonder in a paw paw patch!

Kids’ Book Club – Guest Review

Bayne Library Kids' Book Club members
Bayne Library Kids’ Book Club

Just because we are temporarily closed doesn’t mean our members aren’t reading. Today, we spotlight Annabelle. She is a fifth grader and a very enthusiastic reader. When asked to chose her favorite from the twenty-four books that our Kids’ Book Club has read, Annabelle chose, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

The One and Only Ivan book cover

Here’s what Annabelle said about this 2013 Newberry Medal winner: “I love it because it was sad but happy and showed us a whole new perspective about animals and the story behind them.”

Click here to learn about the gorilla who was the inspiration for the book and watch a great video about his life.

Harry Potter and the Half Book Prince book cover

What is Annabelle reading currently? She’s enjoying Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling. Annabelle says “I love it because it tells a story about magic, the most amazing school in the world, and one boy whose adventure gets more and more dangerous.”

Our thanks to Annabelle for her recommendations. Stay posted for more Kids’ Book Club reviews.

Missing You – Week 7

The Continuing Adventures of “What is Ted Reading?”

Ted loves tacos as much as dragons do! That’s why he’s a pot-belliedbear. Ted also loves reading books like Dragons Love Tacos and Dragons Love Tacos 2 by Adam Rubin. Both titles are also available as a read aloud on Hoopla. In fact, reading the books made Ted so hungry he had to make a trip to one of his favorite places, 202 Hometown Tacos for a some Mama’s Tacos and a Bellevue Bowl. Delicious!

As we move into week seven of our closure, we want all of our library friends, from the tallest to the smallest, to know that we miss you and can’t wait until we can see you again. Stay happy – stay safe – and if you are able, please patronize our local businesses.

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