If you think you need jungle and savannah for a safari, then you haven't encountered Milwaukeean Pat Pollworth's new book for families.
"Milwaukee City Safaris," with photos by Donna Runge, uses Milwaukee landmarks, architecture and neighborhoods to help kids expand their knowledge, fuel their curiosity and boost their appreciation of the built and natural environments in and around Brew City.
Pollworth provides all sorts of background and interesting information about landmarks like The Pabst Mansion, Plankinton Arcade, Milwaukee Art Museum, the Gertie the Duck statue, Milwaukee Public Library and others.
But most interestingly, she adds related details from beyond Milwaukee to help kids put the city and the landmark into context.
For example, in addition to naming the architect, the architectural style, the building materials and the unique features -- among other things -- of the Tripoli Shrine Temple on Wisconsin Avenue, she discusses the Taj Mahal, the history of Masonic lodges in Milwaukee and information on the Shriners.
Add in other suggested activities for kids and families and a great list of related resources and you've got not only a gem of a book for families, but a blueprint for a summer's worth of weekend safaris right here in Milwaukee.
"Milwaukee City Safaris" is available in paperback at local bookshops for $22.95.
Because we're sorta already city safarians already, my kid was delighted when I brought home "Milwaukee, Wisconsin: A Photographic Portrait," with photographs by Peter and Renee Skiba and text by Anne Bingham.
Published in hardcover ($26.95) by Twin Lights, this slim coffee table book is packed with colorful images of the city, with a focus on architecture and outdoor fun (i.e. festivals!).
From the moment, we flipped it open and saw the familiar sight of the Solomon Juneau statue in the eponymous Downtown park, we saw page after page of Milwaukee landmarks and neighborhoods that we've explored.
This is a great book for a Milwaukee ex-pat or an out-of-town visitor, but it's also great fun for those of us staying put right here.
Madison's Kevin Revolinski serves up "Wisconsin's Best Beer Guide" -- in paperback from Thunder Bay Press, $16.95 -- which is just what you expect it to be: a guide to Wisconsin brewers.
But Revolinski starts first with a history of beer in Wisconsin, discussing things like farm breweries, hops and kreusening along the way. Then he slices up the state into six territories and gets to work telling us about the dozens of breweries still in operation in the state.
Reading about everything from Potosi to Sprecher to New Glarus to Dave's BrewFarm makes me very thirsty. It also makes me want to take a sabbatical and go on a road trip. With a designated driver, of course.
From former Milwaukee Robert K. Elder comes "Last Words of the Executed" (University of Chicago Press, $22.50) a hardcover book that is exactly what the title suggests.
Elder spent seven years compiling this last will and testament of famous men like Ted Bundy, Joe Hill, Gary Gilmore and Nathan Hale, as well as the final utterings of many who were less famous.
Some are witty, like James Rodgers, who, when asked if he had any last requests, responded, "yes, a bulletproof vest!" Others are questioning: "I can't see why this is being done to me," said Walter Beyer. Still others are defiant, like John Owens, who demanded, "What time is it? I wish you'd hurry up. I want to get to hell in time for dinner."
Elder -- former Milwaukee newspaperman who now teaches journalism at Northwestern -- considers the cultural value of these last words and discusses what we can learn from them.
We close with a trio of books from Wisconsin Historical Society Press, one of the state's premier local history publishers -- if not THE premier local history publisher.
Madison-based author Erika Janek has penned the very readable "A Short History of Wisconsin" ($18.95, paperback), which traces the history of the Badger State from the hill smashing glaciers to the Tommy Thompson era.
In between we learn about Native cultures, the arrival of Europeans of all kinds, Wisconsin's progressive streak, the dairy industry, the effects of two world wars and more. "Wisconsin Vietnam War Stories: Our Veterans Remember" ($24.95, paperback) is the companion book to a Wisconsin Public Television documentary that aired recently.
In the illustrated book, 40 Wisconsin Vietnam vets recount their experiences during the war. Hard-hitting and emotional, authors Sarah A. Larsen and Jennifer M. Miller -- who, together, also wrote "Wisconsin Korean War Stories" -- help these more than three dozen Wisconsinites open a window onto the war and tell their own stories.
In the back, there's an honor roll of Wisconsin military personnel died during the war and it runs a dreadful 33 pages.
Jerry Apps is the author of many odes to Wisconsin farm and country life and his latest oversized paperback is "Horse-Drawn Days: A Century of Farming With Horses" ($24.95).
Heavily illustrated, this is a tribute to the hardworking farmers -- and the hardworking horses -- that cultivated the fields of the Badger State before mechanized farming really took over.
But it's not strictly history, because Apps also talks to many farmers today that continue to farm with horse power (rather than hp).
Apps also has a lovely new hardcover book out, called "The Barns of Wisconsin" ($29.95), leading us to wonder if there's an aspect of country and farm life in the Badger State that Apps hasn't focused on.
With a mix of new photographs taken by his son Steve and a range of historical pictures, Apps explores not only the evolution of Wisconsin's barns, but the various types, the methods and styles of building, the social importance of these central farm structures and more.
Once again, Apps takes something most of us take for granted and shines a light that reveals a fascinating back story that few ever even considered.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.