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Staff Picks: Books

Towers Falling

I remember how nice the day was. How I didn’t want to go to school. I remember being bored in my Focus on Freshman class when the assistant principal ran, red faced and huffing, into the classroom, handed our teacher a piece of paper, and then ran out. I remember the whole class asking if we were on lockdown, if there was an active shooter in our school, or in the high school across town. I remember the teacher struggling with how to explain what had just happened to a bunch of 9th graders. I remember thinking the world was about to change.

It’s hard to imagine that something that happened not that long ago, something I can still remember so vividly, could be a foreign concept to someone else. In Towers Falling, fifth grader Dèja Barnes wonders how something that happened before she was born could have to do with her. How could this bit of history, something that happened 15 years ago, have any impact on her now? The story follows her as she realizes that 9/11 may have happened before she was born, but the effects have touched everyone around her, and ripple outward to affect her life in ways she did not previously understand. This book does such a fabulous job of showing how we are all connected through our small communities that build outward and how we’re all connected as Americans to 9/11 and how history is never something that exists only in the past tense.


The Last Boy and Girl in the World

The town of Aberdeen is pretty much drowning as the local river waters rise. Residents are caught trying to decide whether to stay and tough it out or stay and leave their home and break up their community. Keely and her friends decide to make the most of what will likely be their last days together in Aberdeen. In the end, The Last Boy in the and Girl in the World is another great teen novel, telling a compelling story and asking questions about the deeper things in life at the same time.


Banned Books Week --This One Summer

 Banned Books Week isn’t over yet, so here’s one more interesting, if controversial book to add to our blog discussion.

 

It’s no secret that I am a fan of graphic novels, and teen books, so it’s no surprise that I gravitated towards This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by her cousin Jillian Tamaki. This beautiful book was initially very well received, winning the 2015 Printz Honor Award for best teen book, based on literary merit, and the Caldecott award for its stunning illustrations.

However, earlier this year the book was banned at parents’ request in libraries in Minnesota and Florida for its profanity and mature themes. Honestly, most of the upset was probably due to misunderstanding. Because the book is a Caldecott winner, an honor usually bestowed upon children’s books, people probably read it, and took offense that the subject matter wasn’t suitable for let’s say their eight year old child.

The book follows two twelve year old girls spending the summer in a beach town. Standing right on the brink of adulthood, they encounter and discuss subjects that are happening in their life, and the lives around them. That includes puberty, crushes, sex, marital problems, miscarriage, and unwanted pregnancy.

It’s a shame that this book was banned, because it really is a lovely book, and the graphic novel format really amplifies the work with the idyllic setting being inked in shades of blue. It’s a great novel, and I hope you take the time to check it out.  


Boy Meets Boy Meets Bans?!?

One of the proudest moments in my career happened when we invited author David Levithan to Kalamazoo. The program was not only going to feature the future Margaret A. Edwards Award winning author, but KPL was also going to give out books to teens featuring LGBTQ characters. The excitement for Levithan's visit soon turned sour when we learned that some people in the community were not happy with the program. The primary objection was that the main character in Levithan's novel Bot Meets Boy, expressed that he knew he was gay in kindergarten. Paul's ability to self-identify at an early age was not something you read about too often in books for teens in 2003. In fact when first published, Boy Meets Boy sparked a revolution in LGBTQ literature for teens. Here was a book that at its core is love story featuring two teens, dealing with teen problems, who happen to be gay. Levithan does address one character's battle with his super conservative parents and how people react to the school's transgendered quarterback/Homecoming Queen, but in the end Boy Meets Boy is about love

As the day of David's visit got closer, we learned of a protest outside of the library. The local news stations started to call asking for interviews. The staff planned for every possible response from the public that day. When it was time for Levithan's talk to begin, I was proud to see a full house (with people even in the hall) of excited advocates and lovers of literature. Outside I found less than ten protesting. Love won and prevented fear from keeping the message of Boy Meets Boy away from those who need it the most. Celebrate Banned Books Week by reading anything by David Levithan, one of the most challenged and banned authors in the past 13 years. 


Teens’ Top 10

There are so many wonderful titles on YALSA’s Teens’ Top 10 2016 List. My personal favorite is Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon and there are so many other great titles on the list. We have all of these titles at every library location. You can vote for your favorite at this link until the end of October’s Teen Read Week. 

Every year, teens across the country nominate titles after reviewing and discussing them in their book groups. The annotated, nomination list is announced each spring. Voting begins to choose the “Top 10” in August 15 and continues through Teen Read Week in October. 

KPL is working to establish a teen book group that would receive and write reviews to participate in this initiative. If you are, or know, a teen who would be interested in joining us, please check out our info page and contact me. An interest meeting will be held in early September.


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.