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Staff Picks: Books

Caddie Woodlawn

This historical pioneer fiction novel for children takes place in Western Wisconsin during the 1860s. It is a story about eleven year old Caddie (Caroline Augusta) Woodlawn who lives with her parents John and Harriet and six siblings. Caddlie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink, is based on the true story of her grandmother, Caddie Woodhouse. You can visit a park and see exactly where Caddie once lived: http://www.dunnhistory.org/sitecw.html.
The Woodlawn’s moved from Boston seven years earlier, but Mr. Woodlawn was born and raised in England. Caddie is a tomboy and she hangs out with Tom, who is two years older and Warren, who is two years younger, all three are red-headed like their father. They are three jolly comrades in search of adventure in frosty weather or sunshine. She has an elder sister Clara and younger sister Hettie who prefer to stay at home and help mother with quilting or sewing or jelly making. Minnie and Baby Joe complete the family. Another child, little Mary, had died after they came from Boston, and daddy tried an experiment whereby he wanted little Caddie to run wild with the boys. “Don’t keep her in the house learning to be a lady. I would rather see her learn to plow than make samplers, if she can get her health by doing so. I believe it is worth trying.” (p.15). Uncle Edmund from St. Louis arrived on the Little Steamer which came up the Monomonie River once a week as far as Dunnville. Its arrival was a great event, for all the letters from the East and all the news from the great world, most of the visitors and strangers and supplies, came up the river on the Little Steamer. The Little Steamer travels down the Monomonie River to the Chippewa, down the Chippewa to the Mississippi, down the Mississipi to St. Louis.
In 1935 this adventurous book was awarded the John Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
There are many events and characters who bring the story alive. Some of the people in the story are: Mr. Tanner, the Circuit Rider; Uncle Edmund from St. Louis, Cousin Annabelle from Boston; Indian John and his dog; Miss Parker the teacher at the one room schoolhouse, and of course, the school children, and the Woodhouse family dog, Nero the sheepdog.


Slacker

 When my brother and I were kids, we loved Gordon Korman books. I think I must have read “No coins, please,” “I want to go home!” and “This can’t be happening at MacDonald Hall” a dozen times each. Well, 30 years later, Korman is still cranking out great books. I figured he must be pretty old by now, but I Googled him and the picture looked pretty young. Turns out he wrote his first book (This can’t be happening at MacDonald Hall) when he was TWELVE! No wonder.

Korman’s brand-new book, Slacker, sounds right in line with the hilarious plot lines I remember from 30 years ago. After his house almost burns down while he’s caught up in a video game, slacker Cameron Boxer’s parents make him join a club NOT involving video games. Cameron instead creates a fake community service club to fool his parents and teachers while he and his friends just continue gaming. Kids end up taking the club seriously and Cameron is stuck being president and having to actually do stuff. The more he tries to get away from the responsibilities of the club, the deeper Cam is pulled in and the more he ends up accomplishing. This book is funny, good for reluctant readers, and has a positive message about helping others.

 


Raymie Nightingale

Every time Kate DiCamillo publishes a book, my heart grows a little. Her newest book, Raymie Nightingale, available April 2016 is sure to make hearts grow in children that need to be reminded of the love that surrounds them. I want to hug each and every one of the characters in this story and help them grow up to be ok. You see, Raymie’s dad left. Raymie develops a plan to bring him back which involves baton twirling, a contest and good deeds. Along the way, Raymie meets two other girls on a journey of acceptance as well, and together the three Rancheros build hearts and souls that will bond children together forever. Start placing your holds now. Read this book and save the date to meet Kate DiCamillo on her book tour at the Central Library, 6:30 pm, July 11!


The Truth About Twinkie Pie

After winning a million dollars in a cooking contest, two sisters move from rural South Carolina to the Gold Coast of New York. GiGi is 12, incredibly smart, and totally apprehensive about her fancy new school. DiDi is older, but still quite young herself. She works hard to provide a happy life for them both, styling hair and cooking their mother's recipes. Through the pains of growing up, things begin to unravel. GiGi begins to wonder what actually did happen to their supposedly dead Mama and her favorite lipstick. The family secrets are revealed one by one in dramatic fashion. GiGi and DiDi both discover the truth of who they are and learn deal with the life they have been given. This is a compelling story about love, sacrifice, and friendship.


Historium

A great big KUDOS goes to Richard Wilkinson and Jo Nelson for creating this engaging museum exhibit in a children's book.  Anyone in love with history and antiquities will enjoy Historium.  Young readers are given a glimpse of ancient civilizations from Africa, America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Oceania through the use of large photographs and illustrations presented in galleries instead of chapters.  More than 130 artifacts from these cultures were carefully chosen and researched by the authors.  It is very well written and provides the right level of details and definitions about each artifact, culture, and time period.  One of my favorite images is Plate 20, Ancient Persia (or page 77). The Frieze of Archers, dated around 510 BASE, is a full-page image of two of Darius the Great's 10,000 elite soldiers.  The aging on the glazed bricks and the intricate details of each soldier are amazing.  The introduction to the book starts by answering the question "What is archaeology?" then provides a timeline of the objects featured. This publication will engage young readers and should inspire future archaeologists, history buffs, and museum enthusiasts for sure.  Written for ages 8 to 12, Historium can be enjoyed by everyone.


Congratulations, Gene Luen Yang!

Congratulations to Gene Luen Yang, the newly inaugurated National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature! I love his ideas about reading without walls. The first graphic novelist to be named Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and the first to be awarded the Printz AwardGene Luen Yang has an impressive body of work. Favorites of mine are Prime Baby and American Born Chinese. With a background as a high school computer science, math, and art teacher, Yang's new Secret Coders, about school-age-kids solving mysteries with coding, makes sense. Many are familiar with his very popular Avatar, the Last Airbender series, as well. You can keep up with Yang on his blog, too! 


Orbiting Jupiter

Gary Schmidt is the incredible author of so many of my favorite books. His latest, Orbiting Jupiter, is now one of my favorite books of all time. It is so masterfully written and the story so compelling. As soon as I closed the last page, I wanted to start all over again and savor every beautiful word and phrase. Three weeks later, I'm still thinking about the story, the characters, and the choices they make. Gary Schmidt gives voice to difficult situations, like the best authors do. This story will grip you, leave you thinking, and maybe change your life. It did mine.


The Cowboy Way

Cole has missed almost four weeks of school. This news shocks his mother and leads her to a hasty road trip out of Detroit to take Cole to his father. Cole has never met his father, nor has he ever met a horse and cowboys. From the book jacket - “Inspired by the real-life inner-city horsemen of Philadelphia and Brooklyn, Ghetto Cowboy is a timeless urban western about learning to stand up for what’s right – the Cowboy Way.”


G. Neri writes with an honest style that will grip readers from the start. I read this aloud with my 7th grader and we both felt just as compelled to follow Cole’s journey to the end of the book. The ties that bind family together are universal, and believing in something or someone helps us all grow. 

 
Take a look at this and all of Greg Neri’s work. Then meet the author on Thursday, October 1 at 5:00 pm at the Powell Branch Library.


Hope Was Here

Joan Bauer writes a fast-paced realistic story about Hope Yancey, she is 16 years old and travels the country with her Aunt Addie who adopted her when she was just a baby. Hope has already attended six different schools and has lived in five different states. Why all the moving? Addie is a cook and all the diners where she’s worked go belly-up. Hope is an excellent waitress, a good waitress has to be ready for anything. Sweeping through the counter, getting orders. Adrenaline pumping. If you want a thrill there’s nothing like in-the-weeds waitressing. You never know what’s coming next. You could wait on a mainiac or a guy passing out twenties.
The story begins with Hope and Addie traveling to Mulvaney, Wisconsin, to begin their new jobs at the Welcome Stairways Restaurant. G. T. Stoops, the owner, has leukemia and he needs help, fast! Addie answers his ad for a cook and professional manager to run his diner.
Hope’s biological mother is Deena, her Aunt Addie’s sister, who didn’t want to be saddled with the responsibility of a baby. Hope’s never met her real father, but she keeps thinking he’ll show up someday, she even keeps scrapbooks of her adventures in anticipation of showing them to her dad… will she ever have a father?
G. T. Stoops is a great guy, so much so that he joins a mayoral race against the corrupt mayor. Hope is a busy teen. She and the staff of the Welcome Stairways get involved in the campaign. There is excitement when the diner fills with customers day by day eager for delicious meals.
The name of the Welcome Stairways diner name is explained on the menu: From early times, the Quakers had welcome stairways built in front of their homes in Massachusetts. These double stairways descended to the street from the front door and were symbols of Quaker faith and hospitality—constant reminders that all guests were to be welcomed from whichever way they came, and,My mother always said that the stairways symbolized how we must greet whatever changes and difficulties life may bring with firm faith in God... Welcome, friend, from whichever way you’ve come. May God richly bless your journey.
Hope Was Here is a refreshing story of loss and triumph.


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.