Mary

Coco (2017) PG

au_movie_poster_coco_1_50f85f97A beautiful animated film wrapped up in the traditions and folklore of Mexico’s Dia de los Muertes (Day of the Dead). Twelve-year-old Miguel wants to be a musician, but his family has banned music from their lives for several generations. Intent on pursuing his dream, his ends up in The Land of the Dead on Dia de los Muertes to find his great-great-grandfather who was a famous musician. Miguel not only discovers his family’s real history but also finds out the importance of family in his life.

Coco won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song (for “Remember Me”). Check out the soundtrack on CD and on Hoopla.
Mary

Mudbound (2017) R

mudbound-poster-4When Jamie McAllan, a WWII fighter pilot, returns home to his family’s Mississippi Delta farm, he cannot leave the horrors of war behind. Ronsel Jackson also returns to the Mississippi delta to resume sharecropping with his family on the McAllan farm. A decorated war hero, Ronsel struggles as he must readjust to life in the Jim Crow South. Ronsel and Jamie become friends, and it is this friendship that lends an uneasy tension to the film. Jamie drinks too much, and Ronsel chafes at the rules that make him a second-class citizen. Superb acting and cinematography make Mudbound a challenging and enriching film to view.

Based on novel Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. Watch on Netflix by checking out one of our rokus.
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Mary

How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe by Thomas Cahill (1995)

irishsavedIf you enjoy history, you will want to pick up this engaging title. In How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill relates the philosophy, culture, and history from the decline of the Roman Empire to medieval Europe.

In a mere 246 pages, this narrative is told through the lives of individuals—including the remarkable figure of St. Patrick. As the Dark Ages descended, Irish monks preserved Western civilization through transcriptions of Greek and Latin manuscripts. In so doing, the Irish put their unique imprint on medieval society, and Ireland became known as the “isle of saints and scholars.”
Mary

I Am Not Your Negro (2016) PG-13

notyournegroRauol Peck’s documentary based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, about the lives of his friends, civil rights leaders Medgar Evans, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and their assassinations, will grab you with its powerful imagery and narration. Actor Samuel Jackson provides the voiceover narration pulled from Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript and passages taken from his other works. Old news reports, archival footage of Baldwin speaking, clips from classic movies, images of the civil rights movement and from the present accompany the narration. In I Am Not Your Negro, Peck has crafted a powerful, relevant examination of race in the United States from the civil rights movement to Black Lives Matter.
Mary

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben (2016)

If you love looking at that beautiful oak or maple in your backyard, or enjoy a walk in the woods, you’ll find this book fascinating. Peter Wohlleben confirms what I have often thought when in the midst of trees—they are wise, social beings that fulfill an important role in our lives. Check out The Hidden Life of Trees today.
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Mary

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie (2016)

How do you describe a novel which combines interesting facts about squirrels and information about philosopher Veblen Thorstein with a delightful cast of eccentric characters? Elizabeth McKenzie does it splendidly, creating a satisfying, funny read with depth and insights into parental and romantic love. Find a copy of The Portable Veblen now.
Mary

Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen (2016)

razorgirlCarl Hiaasen is in top form with his new novel Razor Girl, which, like all his novels, is set in Florida. Filled with wacky characters and a zany plot, Razor Girl will keep you laughing and turning the pages.

Want to escape winter, but can’t really escape? We have an entire list of mysteries set in Florida!
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Mary

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple (2016)

todaywillbedifferentEleanor Flood has decided to turn a new leaf—today she’ll dress nicely, exercise, be kinder to her husband, etc. As life often does when we pledge to start anew, her day goes down the tubes immediately. Eleanor’s mishaps point to the hurt she feels from her estranged relationship with her younger sister.

Maria Semple’s deft use of humor lightens the mood as Eleanor keeps moving forward through her challenging day. Today Will Be Different is the Semple’s latest novel, following mega-bestseller Where’d You Go Bernadette.
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Mary

An Unfinished Life (2005) PG-13

unfinishedlifeFleeing her abusive boyfriend, Jean (Jennifer Lopez) and her 11-year-old daughter head west to her father-in-law Einar’s (Robert Redford) Wyoming ranch. Einar’s longtime friend and ranch hand Mitch lives on the ranch where Einar cares for him. Mitch needs daily shots of morphine to handle the pain he suffers from injuries he received when a grizzly bear attacked him. Mitch is full of compassion for Einar who continues to mourn the death of his son and to blame Jean for his son’s death. The unexpected and threatening arrival of Jean’s ex-boyfriend forces Jean to confront her past. An Unfinished Life is a heartfelt story of healing and forgiveness.
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Mary

City Creatures: Animal Encounters in the Chicago Wilderness by Gavin Van Horn (2015)

citycreaturesEditor Gavin Van Horn has compiled stories, poems, drawings, and photos from Chicago artists which describe their encounters with the diverse wildlife that live in the city.

Learn more about the story behind City Creatures in this review and interview on Chicago Tonight (from local PBS affiliate WTTW).
Mary

Frozen River (2008) R

frozenriverWhen Ray Eddy’s husband flees the hardscrabble town of Massena in upstate New York, he steals Ray’s hard-earned down payment for a new doublewide trailer home. Faced with eviction, Ray has to come up with an impossibly large sum of money to keep a roof over her sons’ heads. Ray unwittingly becomes involved with Lila, a young widow on the nearby Mohawk reservation who smuggles. Lila has resorted to smuggling to keep herself fed and to earn money to reclaim her baby boy who has been taken from her.

Ray and Lila form an uneasy alliance as they drive from the rez across the frozen St. Lawrence River to Canada where they pick up illegal immigrants. A paean to single mothers whose love for their children sometimes drives them to desperate measures, Frozen River will touch your heart.
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Mary

My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago: A Celebration of Chicagoland’s Startling Natural Wonders by Mike MacDonald (2015)

chicagojourneyA paean to the wild beauty of Chicagoland’s nature preserves, prairies, and wetlands. Mike MacDonald’s stunning photos and beautiful prose will inspire readers to visit the natural areas highlighted in his book, and to learn more about the plants and animals that inhabit the wilds of Chicago.

Watch an interview with the author and photographer on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight to learn more about My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago.
Mary

Fearless Food Gardening in Chicagoland: A month-by-month growing guide for beginners (2013)

fearlessfoodThe Peterson Garden Project, which is based in Chicago, has created a simple, yet informative, guide for growing vegetables and herbs in your backyard or patio. What better way to connect with nature than eating food grown from your own garden! Check out Fearless Food Gardening in Chicagoland—and check out seeds from our Seed Library to get started.
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Mary

Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth (1988)

powerofmythStar Wars fans may not be familiar with mythologist Joseph Campbell whose work influenced George Lucas’ Star Wars. In 1988, conversations between journalist Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell about mythology and its importance to society were filmed at Skywalker Ranch. Campbell’s book The Power of Myth was based on these conversations and includes many references to Star Wars characters. I recently re-watched the documentary, The Power of Myth, and found that Campbell’s ideas remain relevant and thought-provoking.

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Mary

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley (2013)

relishLucy Knisley’s graphic memoir about growing up with a mom who is a chef and a father who is a food-snob will trigger memories of favorite foods, of cooking successes and failures, and of times spent sharing meals (delicious and not so delicious) lovingly prepared by someone for us.

Relish is recommended for those who live to eat!