Marysville Library Blog

Friday, December 31, 2010

My Best Reads for 2010-Children’s Chapter Books

As a Children’s Librarian, I get the great pleasure of reading children’s fiction and also feeling virtuous that I’m doing it to be better at my job. So here are the Children’s chapter books that touched me this past year. Yes, this reflects my reading taste, but I hope you or the children in your life get as much fun out of them as I did. If they sound like your child would be interested in them, but the reading level is too much for them, I encourage you to read to them, or check out the audiobooks.

1. “The search for WondLa” by Toni DiTerlizzi: Eva Nine is a curious and sensitive twelve-year-old who has lived all her life sequestered in a subterranean home called Sanctuary, cared for by a robot named Muthr. Eva's great desire is to go above ground and meet other humans, though when she finally has the opportunity, nothing is as she had imagined or prepared for. Where are all the humans? Where are all the plants and animals she read about, and what are these creatures she finds instead? This is an illustrated children’s science fiction chapter book with the same fantastical mood and elements as "Princess Mononoke" and "Howl's Moving Castle".

2. “Penny dreadful” by Laurel Snyder: Penelope is rich, loved by her mostly-absent parents, lonely, and bored. So she makes a wish at a wishing well that life become more interesting. Is it her wish what causes her father to quit his job, her parents to run out of money and the whole family to move to a rambling house in the middle of nowhere filled with odd characters? Penny’s new life feels too magical to be real, too real to be magic. And it may be too good to last . . . unless she can find a way to make magic work just one more time—if it even was magic.

3. “Poop happened!: A history of the world from the bottom up” by Sarah Albee, with Robert Leighton as Illustrator: Have you ever thought about poop? Once humans stopped walking away from their poop as hunter/gatherers, they needed to start dealing with it. I will never watch a show or read a book about past European cities the same way again: streets flowing with animal and human excrement, nobody bathed, and chamber pots being emptied from upstairs windows into the street. And can you guess how a knight in 50 pounds of armor went to the bathroom? Forget shining! This book is full of disgusting facts that will leave your elementary-aged boys howling with laughter.

4. “The great and only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum” by Candace Fleming: Known far and wide for his jumbo elephants, midgets, and three-ring circuses, here’s a captivating look at the man behind the Greatest Show on Earth. Readers can visit P. T. Barnum’s American Museum; meet Tom Thumb (only 39 inches tall!) and his tinier bride (32 inches!); and discover Barnum’s legacy to the 19th century and beyond. Drawing on old circus posters, photographs, etchings and ticket stubs, this book presents history as it’s never been experienced before—a show-stopping event! The highs and lows of his life are worthy of the great showman himself.

5. “Thomas and the Dragon Queen” by Shutta Crum: A kingdom is at war. A brave squire volunteers to set out on a quest to rescue the kidnapped princess. But there's just one small problem; he's low-born Thomas, the shortest of all the squires. Setting off with little more than a donkey, a vest, and a sword, Thomas will have to use all of his courage and determination to battle a beast with many heads, reach a forbidden island, and rescue the princess from a most fearsome dragon! Boys will like the desperate fight against the bog monster, while grownups will like the ending, where Thomas shows his bravery by talking and understanding rather than fighting.

6. “I kill giants” a graphic novel by Joe Kelly: She's an antisocial reading nerd at school, with a very active imagination...but something is not right at home. Who are the giants she must kill, why is her older sister in charge of raising her, and what is so deathly frightening at home? A new friend, the school counselor, and the school bully all add to the mix, culminating in a stormy titanic battle with the horrible Cyclops.

7. “Touch blue” by Cynthia Lord: The state of Maine plans to shut down her island’s schoolhouse, which would force Tess’s family to move to the mainland. Fortunately, the islanders have a plan too: increase the numbers of students by having several families take in foster children. So now Tess and her family are taking a chance on Aaron, a thirteen-year-old trumpet player who has been bounced from home to home. Will Tess’s wish come true or will her luck run out? I loved the sense of place and how several characters grow over the course of the story, but warning: readers looking for lots of action will be disappointed.

8. “The strange case of Origami Yoda” by Tom Angleberger: Loser Dwight talks to his classmates via an origami finger puppet he made of Yoda. If that weren’t strange enough, the puppet is uncanny: he predicts the date of a pop quiz, guesses who stole the classroom Shakespeare bust, and saves a classmate from popularity-crushing embarrassment with some well-timed advice. Dwight’s classmate Tommy wonders how Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. With contributions from his puzzled classmates, he assembles the case file that forms this novel. Kind of a "Diary of a wimpy kid" sensibility, but for the next grade up.

9. “The mysterious howling” by Maryrose Wood: Found running wild in the forest of Ashton Place, the Incorrigibles are no ordinary children. Luckily, Miss Penelope Lumley is no ordinary governess. Mysteries abound at Ashton Place: Who are these three wild, wolfish children, and how did they come to live in the vast forests of the estate? Will Penelope be able to teach the Incorrigibles table manners and socially useful phrases in time for Lady Constance's holiday ball? And what on earth is a schottische?

10. "Frankie Pickle and the closet of doom” by Eric Wight: Frankie braves the dangers of the swamps to explore the ruins of an ancient civilization. He must find the golden circle, but suddenly he is attacked by lava monsters! Just as he is about to touch the golden circle ...his sister grabs the last waffle. Frankie’s imaginative adventures are way more important to him than cleaning his room, so his mom tells him that fine, he doesn't have to clean his room. But he must live with the consequences. How bad could the consequences be? Interspersed graphic novel (the stories Frankie imagines) with regular font (realistic-fiction).

Have fun! What books have grabbed your child's interest this past year?


My Best Reads of 2010-Adult and Teen Books

It’s that time of year when everybody puts out their best and worst lists of 2010. Since I’m a librarian and I read all year, I decided to put together a list of my favorite reads from this past year. For this list, I’ll do just adult and teen books, and I’ll do another list for children’s chapter books that I liked.

I currently use to keep track of what I’ve read and what I want to read, but this coming spring we’re going to change our catalog program, and the new one should give you the option of keeping track of what you want to read. I can’t wait to see how it will work!

But here is my own personalized, idiosyncratic list of books that touched me in 2010:

1. “Sometimes a great notion” by Ken Kesey: The American South has its great literature; this is great epic literature for the Pacific Northwest. Beautifully poetic language, great sense of place and time, underlying issues to think about, and the best ratcheting up of tension ever. Not a quick read, and Kesey is better at writing male characters than females, but this was a wonderful read to then talk about with others.

2. “Bury your dead” by Louise Penny: An obsessive historian's quest for the remains of the founder of Quebec, Samuel de Champlain, ends in murder. Could a secret buried with Champlain for nearly 400 years be so dreadful that someone would kill to protect it? These three interlocking mysteries surrounding Inspector Armand Gamache are set in the province of Quebec during winter. It had a great sense of time and place, where the mysteries also explored the relationship between the French and the English.

3. “Ship breaker” by Paolo Bacigalupi: Set in a future Gulf Coast shanty town, we meet Nailer, a teenage boy searching grounded oil tankers for copper wiring to make quota and live another day. When Nailer discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane and the lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl, Nailer finds himself at a crossroads. Should he strip the ship and live a life of relative wealth where he is, or take a great risk and rescue the girl, hoping she'll lead him to a better life? This is Sci Fi at its best, where an author takes a current issue (in this case the end of the oil economy) and extrapolates it into a believable and riveting story. Teens who like stories with lots of action will like this, and get something to think about, too.

4. “Immortal beloved” by Cate Tiernan: How does being immortal change how you live? Nastasia has been a party girl for centuries, when she decides she doesn't like who she is anymore. The immortal retreat she withdraws to is soothing, but she isn't the only one hiding dark secrets. Lots of personal growth, magic, a mystery, a touch of romance, and a story that will continue in the next book.

5. “Backseat saints” by Joshilyn Jackson: What is it like to be an abused wife? Why don’t they just leave their abusers? This has a distinctive voice, a very scary and disturbing plot, a well-delineated Southern culture ambiance as Ro Grandee grows and learns she will have to choose between her own life and her abusive husband's. I still think about this story months later.

6. “The good son” by Michael Gruber: Somewhere on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, armed terrorists hold Sonia Laghari and eight fellow members of a symposium on peace captive. Sonia, a deeply religious woman as well as a Jungian psychologist, has become the de facto leader of the kidnapped group. Meanwhile her son Theo, an ex-Delta soldier and child jihadi who fought the Russians, uses his military, social and family connections to find and free the victims before they are killed one by one. It gave me a much deeper understanding of what the US is up against in the region, while also being a gripping thriller.

7. “City of veils” By Zoe Ferraris: A woman's body is discovered on the beach in Saudi Arabia. An American woman comes back to Jeddah from a visit to the US, only to find her husband distracted, and then disappear. A chilling mystery set in modern Saudi Arabia, with a constant theme of how women survive (or don't) in the theocratic state. Enthralling, this is a good companion to Gruber's "The Good Son" in understanding a part of the world that was thrust upon the US on 9/11.

8. “Under heaven” by Guy Gavriel Kay: Shun Dai chooses to honor the death of his father the general by burying the bones on an old battlefield to lay the ghosts to rest. Because of his efforts, he is gifted with 250 Sardian horses; so over-the-top that if he's not careful he will be killed for them. He may be killed anyway. The horses and his efforts to dispose of them ripple thru the empire, disrupting delicate balances all the way to the top. This will appeal to fans of complex and epic fiction (such as "Pillars of the Earth", "Anathem", or “Game of Thrones”)

9. “A reliable wife” by Robert Goolrick: A rich businessman living in Wisconsin in 1907 advertises for "a reliable wife." The new wife, Catherine Land, arrives in the harsh landscape in the dead of winter, and it soon becomes clear that each person has their own agenda for the other. Neither anticipates what develops between them - the pent-up emotional response that Catherine discovers towards this enigmatic man and the joy Ralph experiences in giving Catherine the luxuries she has never known.

10. “Going bovine” by Libba Brae: Trippy. A high school slacker gets mad cow disease, where one of the symptoms before dying is to get hallucinations. A loopy punk angel visits him and convinces him to go on a road-trip to find a cure. With all of the weirdness and recurring motifs-does that mean it's all in his head? I listened to the audiobook, and it had good voice casting with a nasally, nerdy voice. You will never look at a garden gnome the same way again.

I had a hard time picking just 10, and if you caught me on a different day I might have chosen a different 10 for my list. What was your favorite book for 2010?


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

So You're Shopping for an E-reader...

So you're shopping for a present for friends or family, and you know they like to read. Hey, how about getting them an e-reader?

You know they use the library a lot (Hooray!), and you know that the library offers downloadable e-books for free (because you use the library a lot, too, Hooray!). You're technologically savvy and know that Kindle is proprietary and won't be compatible with e-books from the library. So what e-reader should you get for them, that will be compatible with the service called "Overdrive" that the library uses? Just in time for the gift-giving season (oh, all right, Christmas and Hannukah), Overdrive has put together a list of devices that are compatible.

Gift-giving problem: solved.