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Staff Picks: Books

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

 This is sort of a fun read for those who may be looking for a bit of a darker read but aren’t really ready for something scary.  The head mistress of a ladies’ finishing school and her brother are poisoned and rather than report the crime to the local police the seven students decide to hide it in an effort to avoid being sent home and separated from each other.  Disgraceful Mary Jane, Sly Kitty, and Stout Alice (each girl has a moniker) haphazardly cobble together a cover up while Pocked Louise sets her sights on finding the killer.  The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is an interesting read for anyone who enjoys murder mysteries with female protagonists.

 


Lowriders in Space

Lowriders in Space is a really imaginative flight-of-fancy in a graphic novel format that children and adults will love. With awesome illustrations by Raúl the Third, the story by Cathy Camper features Lupe Impala, the finest mechanic south of Vacaville. She and her friends El Chavo Flapjack and Elirio Malaria (he's a male mosquito so he doesn't bite), have the skills to restore a junker to compete in a contest for the best car around. They need to win so they can use the prize money to open up their own shop. With original characters and illustrations from out of this world, this is the first book in a great new series!

 


Guardians of Ga'Hoole

Want to hook a young reader on a fantasy series? Try out the Guardians of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky. 15 books of classic good vs. evil in a land run by owls. Owlet snatching, moon blinking, chaw building, battle claws, trees, weather, flashbacks, ceremonies, maps, sorcery, polar bears, nest maid snakes….it’s all in this series! Fun fast paced chapters that always end on a cliff hanger. Each book leaves you rushing to get the next one. Readers will find many correlations to human social psychology and politics using real owl science. This has been a fun series to read aloud with my tween. The movie is a fun tie in too, check it out!


FatKid Rules the World, by K. L. Going

Fat Kid Rules the World, by K. L. Going (Kelly)
c.2003

I really liked this story. It has substance, believability and great character development.

Troy Billings is a 300 lb. high school senior who lives in New York City with his retired ex-Marine father and Dayle, his freshman jock brother. Troy’s mom died when he was nine years old. The story begins with Troy standing treacherously close to the subway tracks, contemplating whether or not to jump when he is suddenly and purposely interrupted by Curt MacCrae. Curt attends the same high school as Troy and Curt is a guitarist extraordinaire. Curt is filthy, skinny, and he’s a junkie. Curt and Troy form a friendship; Curt nicknames Troy “Big T” and he likes that moniker. Curt recruits Troy to be a drummer in his punk rock band, he knows that Troy has what it takes to pound the drums for the sounds he craves.

Troy thinks of himself as a loser; he overeats and he has no friends. Curt really helps Troy move beyond himself. Curt is sweet, unpredictable, and caring, but he’s a victim of abuse and neglect. His father is gone and his mom is married to an abusive alcoholic. Curt pops any prescription pills he can steal to self-medicate.

Troy only played drums in junior high. Curt takes Troy to a music club where they practice playing their music. Troy meets two other musicians and takes a few lessons from the drummer. Troy goes to a punk rock concert with Curt and he has a blast. By now Curt has visited Troy’s house and met Dayle and his dad who is very direct with Curt. He is glad that Troy has a friend, he buys him a drum set. Troy buys drumming books. He practices. Then he doesn’t. When he finally does play on stage for the first time, he is humiliated. Troy is disgusted with himself and he ignores Curt’s phone calls. Soon, however, Troy discovers that Curt is deathly sick and he takes him to ER where Curt is diagnosed with pneumonia and he’s in the hospital for several days. While hospitalized Curt steals prescription drugs and hides them in a planter. Some critical decisions arise: Where will Curt stay upon release from the hospital? What about his addiction? Will Troy force an ultimatum on Curt?

Fat Kid Rules the World is a Printz Honor Award winner for literary excellence for young adult literature. K. L. Going acknowledges Curt Cobain in the writing of this book which has been made into a movie.


Words with Wings

Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes is a short story told in poetic verse. The story is about a girl named Gabriella and, although her grade and age aren’t revealed, she’s probably in junior high.  Each page is a poem with a one or two word title that captures a day in the life of Gabriella who was named after the Angel Gabriel.   Her parents are now separated, she has moved to a new school, and Gabriella uses day dreaming as a way to escape life… separation from her father and being the shy new kid in class.  She day dreams when she hears any particular word and her thoughts are carried away on wings.  For example, the word Dragon takes her riding on a dragon across the sky till the sun dives into the sea.  However, both her mother and her teacher, Mr. Spicer, tell her to quit day dreaming.   “Mom names me for a creature with wings, then wonders what makes my thoughts fly.”  When Gabriella finally does stop day dreaming her mom and Mr. Spicer know that she is unhappy.  Will Gabriella ever return to day dreaming?


I like this book because it is an effective poetry story.  It is interesting that Grimes uses two different fonts to categorize the moods of the poems.  Nikki Grimes is an award winning author and this book received a 2014 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award.  Kalamazoo Public Library owns many books by Nikki Grimes.


I Kill the Mockingbird

After the sudden death of their favorite teacher, three middle schoolers conspire to get everybody to read one of his favorite books, To Kill A Mockingbird, by misshelving and hiding copies of the classic first in their town and eventually in libraries and bookstores far and wide. Lucy, Elena, and Michael publicize what they're doing with posters and social media while making the book scarce until their plan takes on a life of its own. Like Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, I Kill the Mockingbird is a fast and witty read that celebrates the love of books and reading. 

Book

I Kill the Mockingbird
9781596437425

The Boy on the Wooden Box

Leon Leyson was number 289, the youngest on the list.  The list that would eventually mean life for more than a thousand Jews.  Leon was Number 289 on Schindler's list.  His powerful memoir, The Boy on the Wooden Box  tells his story to the young people of today what it was like surviving the Holocaust.  The reader sees this horrific time through the eyes of a child.  His youthful perspective brings a powerful message of survival and humanity.  Leon was only a boy during WWII, spending most of his years from 10-19 in Jewish ghettos, work, concentration and displaced persons camps.  The hunger, loss, pain and suffering are real.  Separated for months at a time from his family, Leon found the will to survive inside of him.  If you are a reader at 40 or a child at 10 reading this book, you will feel the struggle. You will hold your breath as the family is forced to separate.  You will wonder how evil can exist.  You will wonder if Leon ever sees the faces again of his brothers.  Share this book with your children or students. 

I think the dedication page is its own recommendation for reading this book:  "To my brothers, Tsalig and Hershel, and to all the sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, parents and grandparents who perished in the Holocaust.  And to Oskar Schindler, whose noble actions did indeed save a "world entire." - Leon Leyson

Book

The Boy on the Wooden Box
9781442497818

Prepare for fall movie releases with summer reading...

Film adaptations of three recent novels and one middle school classic are scheduled for release this fall. Why not take advantage of summer reading season to read, or perhaps re-read, the books that have inspired these upcoming movies:

The Giver by Lois Lowry - August 15 release

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - October 3 release

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks - October 17 release

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - November 21 release

Book

Gone Girl
9780307588364

The Mad Potter

The arresting photo on the cover of this book caught my eye and I was quickly drawn into the quirky world of George Ohs, who called himself The Mad Potter.

Born in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1871, George Ohs was a largely self-taught potter, making items like no one had ever seen before. It wasn’t until long after his death that the art world came to appreciate what he called his “mud babies.”

The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius tells his fascinating story and is illustrated with intriguing historic photographs.

Book

The Mad Potter
9781596438101

Introducing... Isabelle

Isabelle, a young dancer, is the newest girl in the American Girl series. Isabelle by Laurence Yep is the first book in the series, 2 others: Designs by Isabelle and To the Stars, Isabelle have also been published.

The first book, Isabelle, sets up the characters, her family, friends and the setting. Isabelle is excited about starting her first year at the Anna Hart School of the Arts, a prestigious school for the arts in Washington D.C. She can’t help comparing herself to her older sister, Jade, who also attends Anna Hart and is an amazing ballerina. Actually all the kids at Anna Hart are exceptionally talented. Isabelle questions her dance ability and wonders if she can navigate the new school.

As Isabelle prepares with her class for the Fall Festival, she continues to doubt her own ballet ability. What she doesn’t doubt is her desire and sense of style for designing Jade’s and her own costumes for the program. As the Fall Festival draws closer, Jade gives Isabelle some spot on tips for her dancing that allows for her to finally give the performance she has been dreaming of. And Jade and her both have amazing costumes as well. Both Jade and Isabelle are noticed by a professional Director and dancer and are asked to perform in the Nutcracker – a dream come true.

Fans of American Girl will enjoy this new series. The books are fun and read quickly.

Book

Isabelle
9781609583712