Sunday, July 29, 2012

Teen Volunteer Dystopia Picks

Here at Flowing Wells Library, our summer teen volunteers kept busy with an art project based on their favorite dystopian novels and short stories.

The Giver by Lois Lowry was a striking visual choice for the collage. Black and white with poignant bursts of color illustrate a tale of a boy who learns there is much more to life than he has been led to believe. If you like this classic, check out its sequels, too!

Read on for the rest of their picks...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Somewhere Between Homer and Brad Pitt

One of the best things about working in a library is something I would like to call "the serendipity factor."  Serendipity is a kind of happy good luck, something good that happens that you were not expecting, planning, or looking for.  Like falling in love or finding a $20 bill on the edge of the sidewalk.

In the library world, this happy good luck manifests itself as a random book that happens to be returned when I happen to be on desk and able to take notice.  Well, if you are a bit of a nerd who likes to read (like me) you consider it a piece of good luck to find a book that looks interesting, sign it out just 'cause (hey, it doesn't cost anything), and then discover a story that is so compelling that you are unable to put it down.

One of the most recent instances of this kind of happy luck was discovering Ransom by David Malouf.  It is based on one of the oldest narrative traditions in the Western world: the story of the Trojan War.  In ancient times (really, really ancient times) one's primary means of entertainment (in a world without movies, television, the Internet, or even books for that matter) would have been provided by traveling storytellers who would relate tales such as those that eventually were put down in written form as The Iliad and The Odyssey.  Malouf takes Homer's epic stories and slows the pace way down, concentrating on a small but significant portion of the story: the shared grief of Achilles and Priam.  The effect is much like blowing up a photograph to concentrate on a particular detail or freezing a frame of a film.  The blurred characters who before were lost in a wider narrative suddenly are brought down to a more human, more individual level.  Malouf manages to take myth and transform it into a kind of reality with which one can identify.  It is the difference between reading a history of World War II and sitting with your grandfather and listening to his stories - the overarching narrative is the same, but the scope is more intimate, the details more vivid, the story more personal. 

Of course, you do not have to work at a library to experience this kind of serendipity.  Just ask any of us who are fortunate enough to work for the library, and we would be more than happy to share our latest lucky finds with you (and to hear about yours). 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Middle School Mayhem

I read so many books that sometimes it's really hard to think about what to write about for this blog; other times, the universe just seems to pull out a topic and advertise it in neon lights. With arrows. And a fog horn. I was talking with a middle school teacher the other day and she was saying how there are so few good books for middle school students. My library is also currently working on a program called Middle School Mayhem. So obviously my post needs to be some of my TOP middle school reads. Without further ado, my fave middle school reads:

Friday, July 20, 2012

So Weird, So Good.

I was looking for books by Shaun Tan, but instead stumbled across Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link, which features some of Tan's illustrations.  I was all set to put it back on the shelf and then I noticed the blurb by Garth Nix.  If a book is recommended by Garth Nix, I'll try it.

This collection of short stories actually lived up to its blurbs (so very few books do, you know).  The stories were strange and weird and wonderful and haunting and eerie.  Some of them were funny, some of them were terrifying, and some of them were lovely in their oddness.  It felt at times as if I had wandered into a Surrealist illustration of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, which was a strange but not altogether unpleasant sensation.  My personal favorite story was "The Constable of Abal," but I liked them all, even when they gave me the chills.  And the TV show in "Magic for Beginners" must be made.  I want to watch magic-wielding, dueling librarians!

If you enjoy weird, then you should try Pretty Monsters.  The writing is most excellent and the imagery and ideas are fantastic.  And the weirdness is perfect.

~ Book Ninja

Monday, July 16, 2012

Advice to my Younger Self

Wouldn't it be great if you could warn your younger self against some of the really dumb choices you've made? In Gimme a Call, by Sarah Mlynowski, one girl gets that chance.

When high school senior Devi Banks drops her phone in the fountain at the mall, suddenly she finds that it will only call to one number--her freshman self. The first thing she does is to warn Younger Devi not to date Bryan, the boy who's just cruelly broken Older Devi's heart. She follows that up with all the things she wishes she'd done so she won't end up where she is--friendless, loveless, and about to go to a really bad college.

But Younger Devi doesn't understand why she has to study harder, join a million clubs, give weird advice to her friends, and most of all, ignore sweet and cool Bryan who really seems to like her. As she follows a  torrent of confusing advice from her older self, both girls find their lives changing around them. But are these lives the ones they really want?

Funny and a little brain-bending, this is a book for anybody who's ever believed that teenagers don't have regrets, and anybody who knows differently.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bunheads aka Ballerinas

Ever wonder what it would be like to be a young dancer in a prestigious New York ballet company?  Meet Hannah who at 19 is on the verge of making a breakthrough as a lead dancer. She looks forward to finally calling herself a ballerina, not merely a dancer.  Since she was 10 years old, Hannah has worked hard and competitively to carve out a career in ballet.  She loves the camaraderie in the dressing room with her company friends and nothing can compare with the thrill of performance, whether it be the hundredth time she's danced as a snowflake in the Nutcracker or has just debuted a pas de deux in a new ballet.  Despite the glamour of her world, Hannah feels that the life of a dancer insulates her from the rest of the world.  When she meets Jacob, a handsome singer she discovers a bigger excitement, that of  the bustling city around her.  More importantly, is the feeling inside her, could it be love?  In the end, is it possible to balance this drive to become a successful dancer with the desire to combine her life with another?  Read Bunheads by Sophie Flack and step into Hannah's world.

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's summertime and the reading is easy...and kinda sleazy

I have no problem admitting this--when the temperature reached 84 degrees inside my house, I put down the William Faulkner book I was dutifully trying to reread for the sake of my brain and reached for my latest fluff pick, Vixen by Jillian Larkin.  This book puts "historical fiction" in the camp of hot summer read!  The time is 1923, Chicago, land of flappers and mobsters, lavish parties and serious segregation, complete with flasks of whiskey in your garter and guns in your trunk.  Each chapter tells the story through alternating viewpoints of three young women; there's Gloria, the naive heiress engaged to the most sought after guy in the city, her jealous friend Lorraine, whose goal is to become the fiercest flapper around, and  "country cousin" Clara, who covers up a past more shocking than anyone could imagine.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Where Legends Are Born

In Legend by Marie Lu, the United States has split apart and the majority of it is now the Republic. Day is the Republic's most wanted criminal.  June is a military prodigy, living in the wealthiest circles. When June's brother is killed, Day becomes the prime suspect.  June wants revenge, so she puts her genius level skills to use to catch him.  What they discover is just how far the Republic is willing to go to hide its secrets.  

This was a fun read because each character starts out with very strong beliefs about their world.  As their perspectives change, they have to evaluate and adapt.  This really made the characters stand out.  As for story, there is action, betrayal, daring escapes, and a hint of romance to round it out.  This combination made for a great read.