Thursday, March 17, 2016

Water and Its Soundscapes

With the arrival of March in the Upper Midwest, our longing for spring takes on an air of desperation. The fading winter has our senses on high alert to any sight or sound that hints of warmer temperatures, thawed soil, and green growth. Often, the first indications of spring in Wisconsin are aural instead of visual: an unseasonably warm day in late February has us awake to the sound of long-absent birdsong, a group of school children splash in a puddle born of quickly melting sidewalk ice, or we hear the tinkling sounds of ice breaking away on a frozen skating pond. All this has the water librarians thinking about the soundscapes of water, and compelling resources available that invite us to immerse ourselves in audio.

National Parks Service Sound Library

The National Parks Service hosts a Natural Sounds Program to celebrate and protect the natural and cultural sounds that render a sense of place in these cherished landscapes, and to preserve the “soundtrack of nature” critical for ecosystem health and species survival. The section of the NPS website devoted to this project offers an, “Exploring Sounds,” sound gallery to access different hydrological sounds, among many others (do you know the sound a Gulf Toad fish makes?!). In addition, the various National Parks, themselves, offer resources related to the Natural Sounds Program in varying capacities. Yellowstone hosts an extensive sound library where one can listen to multiple geysers, including Old Faithful, the wintertime song of Yellowstone Lake, and the refrain of the Boreal Chorus Frogs in springtime.

Radio Aporee

How might we imagine a “sonic cartography?” A truly astonishing and transformative project called Radio Aporee does exactly this. Likened to a Google map for sounds, Aporee began in 2006, the brainchild of Berlin-based sound artist and programmer, Udo Noll. Dedicated to "phonography, field recording (and related practices), and the art of listening,” Aporee journeys through the complex sounds of urban, rural, and natural environments across the globe, connecting tens of thousands of idiosyncratic recordings to pins on a map. Of the nearly innumerable water-related sounds, one can listen to: the Milwaukee River at Ceasar Park in Wisconsin, Little Tribune Bay at Hornby Island in British Columbia, the River Wuhle in Hessersdorf, Berlin, and a boat in a flooded underground mine in Ottange, France. In addition, Aporee is a collaborative project, wherein professional and amateur phonographers submit recordings from a variety of aural perspectives and artistic orientations.

British Library Sounds Collection

The British Library online has an extensive Sounds Collection with over 60,000 selected recordings of music, spoken word, and human and natural environments. Their "Water" section is very easy to navigate and offers recordings of natural water soundscapes in the categories with which we are most familiar: brooks, caves, drains, geysers, lakes, rivers, streams, underwater sounds, waterfalls and waves. Are you looking to meditate to seven minutes of the sound of a babbling brook? The British Library has your proverbial back of mindfulness.

Internet Archive: Search Term: Water

We can’t neglect the audio resources found in the Internet Archive (WaybackMachine). The Internet Archive provides us water sounds ranging from the common to the utterly quirky, scraped ongoing from websites all across the Internet. A simple search for “water” and a click on the audio icon generates over 13,000 clips. While not all of them are specific to the natural or urban soundscapes of water—one can listen to several recordings of Christian water baptisms, or an electronic music mashup composition thematically inspired by water, or a lecture on groundwater issues—there is no dearth of recordings of dripping water pipes, water drops, rushing water, waterfalls, and any audio engineered combination of these. Expand your search terms anyway you wish—“rivers,” “puddles,” “ponds,” you name it—and just listen to what treasures you find.

Sonic Water

Sonic Water combines participatory art installation, water, sound, and images to introduce us to “cymatics,” or “the process of visualizing sound and vibrations,” through various types of matter like sand and water. This is an effort to introduce humans to “seeing sound.” It’s difficult to describe in words what Berlin media artists Sven Meyer and Kim Porksen created for exhibition in 2013, so we simply invite you to explore and earn some cultural cool points in the process. (The Vimeo documentary linked on the site is a real treat.)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Our Traveling STEM Kits

Did you know the Water Library has STEM kits to checkout for your use in your library or preschool?

The water-themed STEM kits are for teachers and librarians that work with children ages three through nine and combine literacy and science into one story time extravaganza. Included in the kits are read aloud books, ideas for a "science chat", craft ideas, songs, and for fun - science experiments and activities.

We have two STEM kits so far: JUMP AROUND WITH FROGS! (all about native Wisconsin Frogs and Toad) and DOES IT SINK OR FLOAT? (all about boats and boating and buoyancy).

The kits are available for checkout directly from Wisconsin Water Library by contacting us at or (608) 262 - 3069.

The kits have already started to travel. We created a Google Map to show you where they've been so far around Wisconsin. 

If you would like them to travel to your library or school, please let us know! We'd be happy to loan you one!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Giving thanks

Last week, in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, we gave thanks to the Friends' of UW Madison Libraries for their recent grant to purchase books about environmental economics.

Some of the titles we purchase include:

Economic Valuation of River Systems by Fred J. Hitzhusen.

Environmental Economics for Watershed Restoration edited by Hale W. Thurston, Matthew T. Heberling, Alyse Schrecongost.

Environmental Economics: In Theory & Practice by Nick Hanley.

How big is your water footprint? by Paul Mason. 

Sustainable water use and management: examples of new approaches and perspectives edited by Walter Leal Filho and Vakur Sümer, Link.

Water Ecosystem Services: A Global Perspective edited by Julia Martin-Ortega.

If you are interested in borrowing any of these titles, let us know. And if you have any suggestions for other acquisitions on social science, we'd love to hear from you. 

Please email us at askwater at

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sigrid's Five Things

A new occasional feature from the Water Library will be Sigrid's Five Things. Sigrid joined the library last week and is already sharing her wisdom.

In honor of #BannedBooksWeek, here are Sigrid's Five Things for October 2:

1.   PEN America has curated a wonderful series of essays in honor of Banned Books Week 2015 that put banned and challenged books in a global context, both culturally and socio-politically. 

2. examines thirteen significant poems, poetry collections, and poets that have been censored and banned throughout history.

3.   The American Library Association (ALA) not only provides a list of the most frequently challenged books of 2014, but provides links to banned/challenged classic books, a list of the 100 most frequently challenged books by decade, and more, here:

4.    In August 2015,  in tandem with The Guardian’s “Dangerous Books Weekend” co-hosted with Amnesty International, The Guardian put together a series of quotes taken from authors, novels and activists celebrating the defense of our right to read: 

 5. offers a series of visually stunning and useful Inforgraphics (!) on banned books:


Monday, February 2, 2015

Tales about Lake Michigan!

We combed our library collection for books about beautiful Lake Michigan. Here is a reading list to get your started. If you have any additions, please let us know! You can always askwater


The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Maggie and her parents move to the small town of Gill Creek just as the last summer visitors are leaving and the first body of a murdered teen is found floating in Lake Michigan, in this mystery/romance set in a wintry Door County. (Age 12 and older)

Under My Nose by Lois Ehlert

Children acquainted with artist Lois Ehlert's books realize she loves color, flowers, color, birds, color, being out of doors, color, the changing seasons, color....This slim little book allows a peek at some of Ehlert's childhood family pictures. Color photos show Ehlert at work in her studio and outside in Milwaukee, where she lives near Lake Michigan, and much more. The steps involved in creating a book are shown and summarized. They learn about Ehlert's interest in Latin American folk art, her advice to young artists and writers, and her love of children and books for children. Organized like other books in the same series, Under My Nosecontains an inviting format, easy reading and an inside view of a popular artist and author. (Ages 7-12) 

Mystery of the Fog Man by Carol Farley

Thirteen-year-olds Larry and Kip have their hands full untangling the mysterious sudden appearances and disappearances of the Fog Man and solving the theft of a large sum of money from the ferry Wolverine. This mystery, set in Ludington, involves the car ferries which crossed Lake Michigan.

The Day the Great Lakes Drained Away by Charles Ferguson Barker

Explore what would happen if all of the water drained from the Great Lakes and what their lake floors might look like under all that water.

Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Flemming

"Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a fish?" Papa—who is based on the real-life inventor Lodner Phillips—creates a submarine that can take his family for a trip to the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Good Night Wisconsin by Adam Gamble and Mark Jasper

A bedtime board book that takes children both on a tour of Wisconsin places and attractions (the State Capitol, Lambeau Field, the Wisconsin Dells, and others) and through the course of a day – from morning on a dairy farm to evening at a lighthouse on the shores of Lake Michigan. (Ages 2-5)

Great Ships on the Great Lakes by Catherine M. Green, Jefferson J. Gray, and Bobby Malone

Between them, Wisconsin and Minnesota have more than four thousand miles of Great Lakes shoreline. This volume explores their rich maritime history, from the Native Americans who fished, hunted, and gathered plants in birchbark canoes and dugouts, to the sailors and lighthouse keepers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who kept goods and people moving through the region. A final chapter on underwater archaeology brings the story up to the present day, describing the methods used to locate, explore, and conserve the Great Lakes' many shipwrecks. With archival and contemporary photographs, a timeline, and lists of resources and places to visit. (Ages 8-12)

Potawatomi Indian Summer by E. Williams Oldenburg

Children enter a cave along Lake Michigan and find themselves 300 years back in time.

Shadow of the Wolf by Gloria Whelan

In 1841 thirteen year old Libby and her family begin a new life on the shores of Lake Michigan, where her father works as a surveyor for the Ottawa Indians and Libby is reunited with her Indian friend Fawn.

The Secret Keeper by Gloria Whelan

Sixteen-year-old Ali comes face to face with murder and kidnapping during what promised to be a pleasant summer on Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan – Fact Finders Land and Water: Great Lakes by Anne Ylvisaker

This book, part of a series on the Great Lakes, features information on how Lake Michigan was formed as well as chapters on early people, important industries, pollution and other problems, and how the lake is used today. Gr. K-3.


The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas by Jerry Dennis

Outdoorsman Jerry Dennis' ode to the Great Lakes entertains and informs with the tale of his six-week schooner voyage across lakes Michigan, Superior, Erie, Huron and Ontario. Anecdotes from his childhood along the shores of Lake Michigan are intermingled with the natural history of the lakes and the effects of humans upon them. The author's love and respect for his subject will delight others with an interest in these inland seas.

Discovering Great Lakes Dunes By Elizabeth Brockwell-Tillman and Earl Wolf.

The sand dunes along the Great Lakes are the most extensive freshwater dunes in the world. Most of the dunes are along the Michigan shore, but some are in Wisconsin. This book combines beautiful color photos of the dunes plus information about their ecology.

Great Lakes Circle Tour: Reliving History Along Lake Michigan's Circle Tour Route By Bob Schmidt and Ginger Schmidt.

Even those who have lived in the Midwest all of their lives will discover new, fascinating tidbits about the cultural and historical background of the Lake Michigan area in the Schmidts' guide to circumnavigating this Great Lake.

Castle Nowhere Lake-Country Sketches By Constance Fenimore Woolson

Castle Nowhere is Constance Woolson's collection of stories set for the most part in the Great Lakes, in particular northern Lake Michigan and Lake Huron near Detroit. Several themes inhabit Woolson's writing: an environmental consciousness and concern with landscapes; an awareness of the complexities of race; and an abidingly careful eye for the shallowness that sometimes accompanies wealth or social pretensions. She also had a unique perspective as a woman who pioneered the use of controversial subjects---such as unrequited or misplaced passion---and methods in fiction during a time that valorized domesticity.

Schooner Passage: Sailing Ships and the Lake Michigan Frontier By Theodore J. Karamanski.

Karamanski tells the stories of the men and women who sailed on the schooners during the 19th and early 20th centuries, their labor issues and strikes, the role of the schooner in the maritime economy along the Lake Michigan basin, and the factors that led to the eventual demise of the schooner.

Perimeter: a contemporary portrait of Lake Michigan by Kevin J. Miyazaki

Commissioned by the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University to create an artwork reflecting on the importance of freshwater, Milwaukee-based photographer Kevin J. Miyazaki embarked on a two-week, 1,800-mile drive around Lake Michigan. He traveled its perimeter, through Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, to produce what he calls “a contemporary portrait of Lake Michigan.” Miyazaki set up his portable studio on beaches, in parks, on boat docks, and in backyards, photographing those he met along the way. From residents, environmental scientists, and artists to a Native American water rights advocate, surfers, and commercial fishermen, Lake Michigan holds a powerful place in the life of each. Many shared their thoughts with him on why this body of water is important to all.

Some like it Cold : a Sheboygan Surfin’ Safari by William Povletich

"Some Like it Cold" is the story of two brothers who surf Lake Michigan off the coast of Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Western Great Lakes Lighthouses: Michigan and Superior By Ray Jones.
More than 60 lighthouses are included in this volume. Archival and recent photographs bring the history and significance of each lighthouse to life

Lost & found: legendary Lake Michigan shipwrecks by V. O. VanHeest
Accomplished diver and author Valerie Van Heest uses her extensive experience and Great Lakes contacts to allow readers the tragic sinking of legendary Lake Michigan ships. Spanning the ages of sail, steam and diesel, the book details discoveries shared with the author by some of the lake's most prolific wreck hunters.

Freighters of Manitowoc : the story of Great Lakes freight carrying vessels built in Manitowoc, Wisconsin by Tom Wenstadt

"Freighters of Manitowoc" chronicles the building of freight carrying vessels in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Manitowoc was a tiny fontier town in the 1840s with river entrance on the western shore of Lake Michigan. From these small beginnings, it grew to build and deliver the largest vessels on all of the Great Lakes of the time. In the book's 356 pages, read about the builders themselves, the vessels they built, their yards, how their businesses interrelated to the town, the river, the lake and other waterways of the world.

Adult Fiction

Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye

Set against the powerful lakeshore landscape of northern Minnesota, Safe from the Sea is a heartfelt novel in which a son returns home to reconnect with his estranged and dying father thirty-five years after the tragic wreck of a Great Lakes ore boat that the father only partially survived and that has divided them emotionally ever since. When his father for the first time finally tells the story of the horrific disaster he has carried with him so long, it leads the two men to reconsider each other. Meanwhile, Noah's own struggle to make a life with an absent father has found its real reward in his relationship with his sagacious wife, Natalie, whose complications with infertility issues have marked her husband's life in ways he only fully realizes as the reconciliation with his father takes shape. Peter Geye has delivered an archetypal story of a father and son, of the tug and pull of family bonds, of Norwegian immigrant culture, of dramatic shipwrecks and the business and adventure of Great Lakes shipping in a setting that simply casts a spell over the characters as well as the reader.

Starvation Lake: A Mystery by Bryan Gruley

After crossing an ethical line while writing an investigative series for the Detroit Times, reporter Gus Carpenter has returned to his hometown of Starvation Lake, Mich., to work for the local paper. Evidence surfaces that the town's legendary hockey coach, Jack Blackburn, was murdered. Carpenter's reopening of the case, which has personal resonance for him, shakes all sorts of skeletons loose.

The Echoes of L’arbre Croche by Donald Johnston

When a ship sinks off the coast of Beaver Island in Michigan, the intertwining lives of the characters unlock the mystery of the disappearance of another ship twenty years earlier, in a riveting whodunit set on the stormy waters of the Great Lakes.

Freshwater Boys: Stories by Adam Schuitema

Michigan native Schuitema's debut collection contains 11 short stories set in and around the Great Lakes in Michigan. Michigan landscapes and lakes serve as central characters in the stories. Men and boys collide in Michigan's woods, dunes and lakesides in a struggle to understand what it means to be a man. Lake Michigan and the concept of a "third coast" figure prominently in these well-written and engaging stories.

Watermarks: poems from the coast of Keweenaw by Barbara Simila

In Watermarks: Poems from the Coast of Keweenaw, Simila provides a collection of thirty-one poems about life in Michigan's Copper Country.

Haunted Lake Michigan by Frederick Stonehouse

The hauntings have reached Lake Michigan! A continuation of the Haunted Lakes series, Haunted Lake Michigan features the research of Great Lakes historian (and accidental ghostchaser) Frederick Stonehouse. In this volume, he relates the tales of lost maritime spirits and cursed ships, sea monsters, UFOs, ghostly echoes of Prohibition-era murders and a deliciously horrible host of other hauntings in, on and around Lake Michigan.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Bibliography for Middle Schoolers

We just shared the following bibliography with a local middle school teacher who is having WATER as his classroom theme all this year. If you are looking for something for your middle schooler, this is a good place to start. If you need a different book recommendation, send an email to

Happy reading!

Easy Readers

Cole, Joanna, and Bruce Degen. The Magic School Bus At the Waterworks. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1986.

Cole, Joanna, and Bruce Degen. The Magic School Bus On the Ocean Floor. New York: Scholastic, 1992.

Locker, Thomas. Water Dance. Orlando: Harcourt, 1997.

Van Allsburg, Chris. The Wreck of the Zephyr. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1983.

Chapter Books

Hamilton, Virginia, and Jerry Pinkney. Drylongso. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1997.

Henkes, Kevin. Bird Lake Moon. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books, 2008.

Hiaasen, Carl. Flush. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005.

Park, Linda Sue. A Long Walk to Water: a Novel. New York: Clarion Books, 2010.

Philbrick, Nathaniel. Revenge of the Whale: the True Story of the Whaleship Essex.New York: G.P. Putnam, 2002.

Rhodes, Jewell Parker. Ninth Ward. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2010.

Richards, James. Three Rivers Rising: a Novel of the Johnstown Flood.


Bang, Molly. Nobody Particular: One Woman's Fight to Save the Bays. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2000.

Berne, Jennifer and Eric Puybaret. Manfish: a Story of Jacques Cousteau. San Francisco [CA]: Chronicle Books, 2008.

Cohen, Sheila. Gaylord Nelson: Champion for Our Earth. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2010.

Lawlor, Laurie, and Laura Beingessner. Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World. New York: Holiday House, 2012.

Nivola, Claire A. Life in the Ocean: the Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle. New York: Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012.


Ballard, Robert D. Exploring the Titanic. New York: Scholastic, 1988.

Jenkins, Steve. Down, Down, Down: a Journey to the Bottom of the Sea. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.

McKinney, Barbara Shaw, and Michael S Maydak. A Drop around the World. Nevada City, Calif.: Dawn Publications, 1998.

Pringle, Laurence. Ice! The Amazing History of the Ice Business. Honesdale, Pennsylvania : Calkins Creek, 2012.

Wargin, Kathy-Jo, and Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen. The Edmund Fitzgerald: Song of the Bell. Chelsea, Mich.: Sleeping Bear Press, 2003.

Wick, Walter. A Drop of Water: a Book of Science and Wonder. New York: Scholastic, 1997.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Fizz, Boom, Read: Exploring Environmental Science!

Need more ideas for your library's "Fizz, Boom, Read!" summer reading program?

Here is another book available for check-out from UW MAdison's Water Library that could help you pair children's and young adult literature with STEM art projects, crafts and experiments.

Exploring Environmental Science with Children and Teens by Eileen G. Harrington

Environmental science is a crucial, and too often missed, part of STEM curriculum. This unique and informative book provides ideas for environmental science programming in schools and libraries. Exploring Environmental Science with Children and Teens provides brilliant ideas for craft, team projects and observation activities. One section even outlines step-by-step advice for creating and sustaining an ongoing "green-themed" book clubs in your library.

Harrington's excellent book is unique as a manual for guiding children and young adults to become actively involved in environmental and citizen science long after they have left the library or classroom. In addition to craft and story-time ideas, Harrington includes learning outcomes for activities, information for young people to get involved in large-scale citizen science projects and tips for doing projects as a family.

Another notable section includes information so students can start their own environmental action clubs. The book encourages students to pick a passion, such as campaigning for composting or another pressing community issue, and form the club from that point. This section helps give educators ideas for inspiring young people to get active in their own communities. 

An excellent book for this year's "Fizz, Boom, Read!" Summer Reading Program!