Oceans of Possibilities

Here are books highlighting adult and youth materials related to the theme “Oceans of Possibilities.” Pick up a fun summer read! They’re fin-tastic! Visit our Summer @ the Library page for more information on our reading challenge.

Selections from the Youth Services collection:

Carmela full of wishes / Matt de la Peña ; Christian Robinson
Carmela is excited for birthday pancakes and “jingling and jangling” bracelets as a gift. Best of all, she’s now old enough to accompany her brother on her scooter to the laundromat, the bodega, and the locksmith. Carmela’s sibling is disgruntled with her company, and he finds her noisy jewelery annoying. When she picks a dandelion that’s gone to seed, he impatiently explains she should make a wish before blowing on it: “Everyone knows that.” While considering what to wish, the young girl holds her prize securely until there’s an accident. Carmela sadly believes she’s lost her chance to make things better for her family—her mother is a hotel housekeeper and her father is waiting to get “his papers fixed so he could finally be home.” Big brother comes to the rescue by giving her the opportunity for a multitude of wishes. The acrylic paint, collage, and digitalized illustrations offer plenty of color and details to entertain children as even the youngest member of this close-knit Hispanic family does her part to improve their lives.

The paper boat / Thao Lam
Thao Lam’s signature collage art tells the wordless story of one family’s escape from Vietnam—a journey intertwined with an ant colony’s parallel narrative. At her home in Vietnam, a girl rescues ants from the sugar water set out to trap them. Later, when the girl’s family flees war-torn Vietnam, ants lead them through the moonlit jungle to the boat that will take them to safety. Before boarding, the girl folds a paper boat from a bun wrapper and drops it into the water, and the ants climb on. Their perilous journey, besieged by punishing weather, predatory birds, and dehydration, before reaching a new beginning, mirrors the family’s own. Impressionistic collages and a moving narrative make this a one-of-a-kind tale of courage, resilience, and hope.
And Tango makes three / by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell ; illustrated by Henry Cole
This tale based on a true story about a charming penguin family living in New York City’s Central Park Zoo will capture the hearts of penguin lovers everywhere. Roy and Silo, two male penguins, are “a little bit different.” They cuddle and share a nest like the other penguin couples, and when all the others start hatching eggs, they want to be parents, too. Determined and hopeful, they bring an egg-shaped rock back to their nest and proceed to start caring for it. They have little luck, until a watchful zookeeper decides they deserve a chance at having their own family and gives them an egg in need of nurturing. The dedicated and enthusiastic fathers do a great job of hatching their funny and adorable daughter, and the three can still be seen at the zoo today. Done in soft watercolors, the illustrations set the tone for this uplifting story, and readers will find it hard to resist the penguins’ comical expressions. The well-designed pages perfectly marry words and pictures, allowing readers to savor each illustration. An author’s note provides more information about Roy, Silo, Tango, and other chinstrap penguins. This joyful story about the meaning of family is a must for any library.
I talk like a river / by Jordan Scott ; illustrations by Sydney Smith

This tale based on a true story about a charming penguin family living in New York City’s Central Park In this lyrical and empowering picture book, Canadian poet Scott tells a story based on his own experiences as a boy who stuttered. In simple, evocative language, he captures the isolation, social devastation, and self-doubt of a child who feels incapable of communicating his thoughts and offers an affirming way to think about difference. As the boy’s dad picks him up from school one day and takes him for a walk by the river to de-stress and relax, the narrative goes beyond the calming solace found in the natural world to make a more profound comparison and connection. The man reassures his son that his speech is like a river. Using this imagery and language, the boy is able to think about his dysfluency in a new way, realizing that sometimes his speech is “bubbling, whirling, churning, and crashing”; sometimes calm and smooth, just like the ever-shifting waters of the river. Smith’s (Town Is by the Sea, rev. 3/17; Small in the City, rev. 11/19) verdant and light-infused paintings pack an emotional punch and provide the perfect complement to the poet’s words. The varied layouts and dazzling spreads keep the boy center stage and lovingly framed. An expressive double-page close-up of the boy’s face opens to a spectacularly effective gatefold of the child in the embrace of the river’s sparkling water (Smith captures the play of light on water like nobody else). I Talk like a River is not mere bibliotherapy; it is instead a meditation for all children on self-acceptance, finding one’s voice, and reconsidering what is labeled as normative. An important and unforgettable offering presented with natural beauty and grace.
From the stars in the sky to the fish in the sea / Kai Cheng Thom ; illustrated by Wai-Yant Li & Kai Yun Ching
A magical gender variant child brings transformation and change to the world around them thanks to their mother’s enduring love. In the magical time between night and day, when both the sun and the moon are in the sky, a child is born in a little blue house on a hill. And Miu Lan is not just any child, but one who can change into any shape they can imagine. The only problem is they can’t decide what to be: a boy or a girl? A bird or a fish? A flower or a shooting star? At school, though, they must endure inquisitive looks and difficult questions from the other children, and have trouble finding friends who will accept them for who they are. But they find comfort in the loving arms of their mother, who always offers them the same loving refrain: “whatever you dream of / I believe you can be / from the stars in the sky to the fish in the sea.” In this captivating, beautifully imagined picture book about gender, identity, and the acceptance of the differences between us, Miu Lan faces many questions about who they are and who they may be. But one thing’s for sure: no matter who this child becomes, their mother will love them just the same.
The whale child / Keith Egawa and Chenoa Egawa

A whale child and his mother share a dream of their human relatives. The whale child has been chosen to turn into human form and teach the lessons of the ocean to his human sister, Alex, who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her Coast Salish mother and Polynesian father. For several days, the whale in boy form leads Alex on an environmental learning journey, taking her on daily walks to educate her about the negative impact that human culture has had on the environment. He teaches Alex about water pollution, overfishing, and climate change that inevitably leads to the extinction of many animal species and the destruction of ecosystems. When he returns to the ocean in his original whale form, it is up to Alex now to teach what she has learned to other humans. Vivid illustrations juxtapose the beauty and scale of the natural world that the children explore. The story is followed by extensive backmatter: a glossary of environmental terms, a brief history of the Pacific Northwest Native cultures, classroom learning activities, and ideas for student projects. Infusing qualities of traditional storytelling into the narrative, Keith Egawa (Lummi) and Chenoa Egawa (Lummi and S’Klallam) offer a perspective on climate change from the lens of Indigenous people. By relating the tale through the eyes of children, the author-illustrator team evokes an empathy that should stir a wide audience. This necessary read decolonizes the Western construction of climate change.

Selections from the Adult Services collection:

387.5089 BOL
Black jacks : African American seamen in the age of sail / W. Jeffrey Bolster

Bolster’s account begins by establishing that, from the earliest days of slavery in the Americas, there were black bondsmen employed as sailors on oceangoing vessels. European and later colonial reliance on African watermen began with the canoemen of Africa and extended to deep-sea voyaging sailors as well as local boatmen transporting goods on the internal waterways and coastal passages of the Caribbean and North America. These seamen were able to straddle the lines between slavery and freedom, and between isolation and worldliness. Unlike their plantation counterparts, slave sailors were appreciated for their skills and rewarded with respect and privilege meted out by white captains and fellow sailors. Thus, according to Bolster, black sailors gained a sense of achievement that many slaves, and later free blacks, were unable to experience. Indeed, Bolster argues that it was the northern free black population that found the most benefit from an occupation at sea. The pay and treatment by white coworkers was far better than land work. In addition, northern black sailors could aid their southern neighbors in flight from slavery and keep them informed of northern antislavery activities, slave rebellions, and political events. The central argument in Black Jacks is that all of these advantages and opportunities were available to slave or free black sailors, and that, in fact, their common employment throughout the Atlantic allowed them to create and shape a black Atlantic community from the 1700s until the 1830s.
641.5951 DUN
Land of fish and rice : recipes from the culinary heart of China / Fuchsia Dunlop ; photography by Yuki Sugiura

The lower Yangtze region, or Jiangnan, with its modern capital Shanghai, has been known since ancient times as a “land of fish and rice.” For centuries, local cooks have harvested the bounty of its lakes, rivers, fields, and mountains to create a cuisine renowned for its delicacy and beauty. In Land of Fish and Rice, Fuchsia Dunlop draws on years of study and exploration to present the recipes, techniques, and ingredients of the Jiangnan kitchen. You will be inspired to try classic dishes such as Beggar’s Chicken and sumptuous Dongpo Pork, as well as fresh, simple recipes such as Clear-Steamed Sea Bass and Fresh Soybeans with Pickled Greens. Evocatively written and featuring stunning recipe photography, this is an important new work celebrating one of China’s most fascinating culinary regions.
641.9774 LEV
The Lake Michigan cottage cookbook : door county cherry pie, sheboygan bratwurst, traverse city trout, and 115 more regional favorites / Amelia Levin

Savor the flavors of Lake Michigan anytime, anywhere with this love letter to America’s Third Coast. Classic recipes such as Bavarian Dark Rye Bread, Panfried Perch, and Beer-Battered Cheese Curds with Homemade Ranch Dip capture the best of the lakeshore lifestyle while serving up iconic tastes from around Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. Profiles highlighting local markets, restaurants, bakeries, and farms bring to life the best of Lake Michigan, from traditional treasures to newfound delights.
The mermaid chair / Sue Monk Kidd

Inside the abbey of a Benedictine monastery on tiny Egret Island, just off the coast of South Carolina, resides a beautiful and mysterious chair ornately carved with mermaids and dedicated to a saint who, legend claims, was a mermaid before her conversion. Jessie Sullivan’s conventional life has been “molded to the smallest space possible.” So when she is called home to cope with her mother’s startling and enigmatic act of violence, Jessie finds herself relieved to be apart from her husband, Hugh. Jessie loves Hugh, but on Egret Island– amid the gorgeous marshlands and tidal creeks–she becomes drawn to Brother Thomas, a monk who is mere months from taking his final vows. What transpires will unlock the roots of her mother’s tormented past, but most of all, as Jessie grapples with the tension of desire and the struggle to deny it, she will find a freedom that feels overwhelmingly right.
The night ocean / Paul La Farge

H. P. Lovecraft has become a lightning rod of late for writers—Victor LaValle, Matt Ruff, Kij Johnson, Ruthanna Emrys, and Silvia Garcia-Moreno to name a few—who turn his fiction head over tentacles, using their own weird fiction to re-examine Lovecraft’s racism, sexism, and homophobia. La Farge furthers this trend to great effect, blending weird fiction, literary fiction, mystery, and memoir into a strange cocktail. “The Night Ocean” was originally a short story, co-written by Lovecraft and young Robert Barlow in 1930s Florida. La Farge creates a fictional web from Barlow’s life and other events like William S. Burroughs’ time in Mexico, the McCarthy era, and the fan wars of early science-fiction writers. When Charlie Willett, fascinated by Lovecraft’s legacy, digs up Barlow’s diary of Lovecraft’s Florida visit, which alleges a homosexual relationship, he becomes caught in the web. Every string he pulls creates further entanglements. Is the diary real? Did Barlow commit suicide in Mexico? One more dimension is added as Willett’s psychotherapist wife, Marina, struggles to find out what happened to Charlie after he became lost in his obsession. La Farge’s tale should enthrall readers who want to explore the human cost of false facts and personal deceptions, the nebulous borders of memoir and fiction, or the self-inflicted wounds of prejudice. It’s a sudden fall down a bibliophile’s rabbit hole of somewhat forgotten writers and a reminder that the real world can be just as weird as the Cthulhu mythos. Knowledge of Lovecraft or the book’s other references will enhance a reader’s experience but aren’t required.
Walking on cowrie shells : stories / Nana Nkweti

In her powerful, genre-bending debut story collection, Nana Nkweti’s virtuosity is on full display as she mixes deft realism with clever inversions of genre. In the Caine Prize finalist story ‘It Takes a Village, Some Say,’ Nkweti skewers racial prejudice and the practice of international adoption, delivering a sly tale about a teenage girl who leverages her adoptive parents to fast-track her fortunes. In ‘The Devil Is a Liar,’ a pregnant pastor’s wife struggles with the collision of western Christianity and her mother’s traditional Cameroonian belief system as she worries about her unborn child. In other stories, Nkweti vaults past realism, upending genre expectations in a satirical romp about a jaded PR professional trying to spin a zombie outbreak in West Africa, and in a mermaid tale about a Mami Wata who forgoes her power by remaining faithful to a fisherman she loves. In between these two ends of the spectrum there’s everything from an aspiring graphic novelist at a comic con to a murder investigation driven by statistics to a story organized by the changing hairstyles of the main character.