Monday, January 26, 2015

New Non-Fiction

The Peter White Public Library offers these new non-fiction titles.

The Beatles Lyrics: The Stories Behind the Music, Including the Handwritten Drafts of More Than 100
Classic Beatles Songs by Hunter Davies.
Another work from the author of the only authorized Beatles biography, The Beatles published in 1968. The creative process that resulted in the lyrics and music by The Beatles has been a topic of discussion for decades. Davies assembles and presents a body of source documents for the band’s works. Some are scraps of paper he picked off the studio-floor, and documents collected by others. Provides insights from someone who knows the topic of The Beatles first-hand. Beatles fans are probably acutely aware of the multitude of books about the band. If you’re going to read a Beatles book, you can’t go wrong with Hunter Davies.

New Adult Non-Fiction 782.421 DA.

Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite by Suki Kim.
In 2011South Korean Suki Kim was allowed to teach English at the all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST). “Without You, There Is No Us” is a reference to a song her students sang three times daily in praise of “Great Leader” Kim Jong-il. She gives rare insight into the closed society, which keeps the populace in subordination through unquestioning devotion to leadership, and the spread of misinformation. One unintended consequence is intellectual mediocrity, resulting from the general ignorance that prevails in the country.

New Adult Non-Fiction 951.9305 KI.

Wilde in America: Oscar Wilde and the Invention of Modern Celebrity by David Friedman.
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple,” is a line from The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde’s 1885 work. It could illustrate the enigmatic nature of Wilde’s own life. However, in 1882 he had yet to do anything in particular to deserve notoriety, much to the dismay and jealousy of some of his contemporaries. It was in that year that the 27-year-old arrived for a tour of the United States. The self-declared genius was honing his craft of self-publicity. The newspapers hung on his every word, documenting his antics, as he became famous for being famous. Wilde in America also gives a sometimes hilarious insight into Gilded Age America.

New Adult Non-Fiction 921 Wilde.

You Can't Make This Up: Miracles, Memories, and the Perfect Marriage of Sports and Television by Al Michaels.

The longtime broadcaster shares unique stories from over 40 years of covering various sporting events. Michaels has amassed more on-air time than any other sports broadcaster, including World Series, NBA Finals, Super Bowls, Stanley Cup Finals, and the 1980 Miracle on Ice US Olympic hockey victory. Michaels shares insights into the events he witnessed and personalities he encountered, as well as stories relating to his personal life and career. Firsthand tales from one of the most respected sports broadcasters of all time.
New Adult Non-Fiction 921 Michaels.

Bruce MacDonald. Assistant Director.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Intermediate fiction

If you frequent the children’s department of Peter White Public Library, you know about the picture book section, and if you have older children you know where to find a good chapter book.  Those with children just learning to read, know where the beginning readers are and non-fiction can’t be missed if you are helping a child with a report, a project, or insatiable curiosity when it comes to bugs, robots, or dinosaurs. 

            One section you might not know is Intermediate Fiction--where the perfect books are, perfect if your child is on the precipice of becoming a full-fledged independent reader.  These books have a “J” on the spine like a chapter book, but they are shelved  closer to the Easy Readers and the picture books. 
Intermediate books tend not to win awards like the Caldecott or the Newbery.  In truth it’s usually not their literary value that makes them perfect; it’s how they fit their intended audience.  The stories they contain are more interesting than the ones found in readers, but they don’t overwhelm if you have a reader who still gets clues from a good illustration or doesn’t have the confidence to take on a longer book.  They often make good read alouds for younger children who are ready to listen to a story in more than one sitting.  They understand the viewpoint of children ages 6-11.
            Many of these books are written as series, which gives readers a sense of predictability. The predictability can make them tedious for more advance readers, but it’s perfect for the intended audience.  One of the longest and most popular series is the Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osbourne, known by many as the Jack and Annie books. These siblings wear jeans and sneakers as they go off on adventures to other times and places, most recently to ancient Greece where they meet Alexander the Great in Stallion by Starlight, book number 49 in the series.
Humor plays an important role in intermediate fiction.  The title character in Frank Einstein by Jon Scieszka is the typical intermediate fiction character: he’s creative, adventurous, and tends to find himself in the wackiest scenarios.   Using real science, Jon Scieszka has created a unique world of adventure and science fiction--an irresistible chemical reaction for middle-grade readers.
Bink and Gollie, a pair of buddies who feature in three recent titles by Kate DiCamillo follow in the tradition of many of the world’s great comic pairs:  think Laurel and Hardy on roller skates or Calvin and Hobbs.  These girls don’t seem to have parents, but they do have imagination.  In many respects they are opposites and can be best enemies as well as best friends, but when the dust settles, they manage to work out their differences.  The unusual style of the Bink and Gollie books features advanced vocabulary and humor and a strong use of graphics with few words per page.  As a result, they are accessible to a wide range of readers. 

The Stink books (Stink is the main character’s name) serve as a companion series to the popular Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald.  Stink in the Freaky Frog Freakout is part wild imagination (can Stink get frog super powers by being licked by a frog?) and part environmental lesson (can Stink help save the different local frog species by getting adults to stop dumping fertilizer?)  Stink’s sense of humor and persistence will keep young readers turning pages to find out.
             Dan Gutman’s My Weird School series features great titles like “Ms. Sue has No Clue,” ”Mr. Jack is a Maniac, ” and the latest addition to our collection,  “Miss Klute Is a Hoot!”  Miss Klute, it turns out is a Labradoodle, hired to help the kids at Ella Mentry School boost their reading scores.  Miss Klute makes a great story to share with one the therapy dogs who visits the Youth Services Department on Thursday nights.  (To learn more about Dog Nights, call 226-4320.)

            Another common element in these books is naughty behavior.  The hijinks of the characters could give pause to parents who don’t think their children need any more ideas on how to misbehave.  On the other hand, the stories allow children to understand consequences and repercussions without actually engaging in the behavior themselves.  Junie B Jones has served as the bad girl of intermediate fiction for over 20 years now.  Her latest, Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten, features a contest to see which classroom can write the best thankful list. Only being thankful is harder than it looks. 

Monday, January 12, 2015


Cold winter days are perfect for reading biographies of the people who have shaped history, culture, politics and entertainment.  Scott Eyman has made a name for himself writing about Hollywood.  His latest book discusses one of Hollywood’s most famous and most enduring actors.  This exhaustive look at Wayne was started before the Duke’s death.  Eyman interviewed Wayne and family members.  He draws on previously unpublished reminiscences from friends, family and associates as well as documents from Wayne’s production company.  Over 600 pages of text delves into Wayne’s life with more authority than previous publications.
            Bruce Allen Murphy is another author with expertise.—not of Hollywood, but of the U.S. Supreme Court.  His latest book Scalia, a Court of One examines the history of Justice Antonin Scalia.  Called one of the most outspoken and polarizing Supreme Court justices, Scalia’s career has not evolved in the way Court watchers expected.  Rather than uniting the conservative majority, Scalia’s personality has isolated him from his colleagues and provided plenty of fodder for critics.
            Gail Sheehy’s writing career has resulting in sixteen books and numerous articles for New York magazine.  Her book Passages has been named one of the ten most influential books of our times by the Library of Congress.   Her autobiography Daring, My Passages recounts her groundbreaking career as a 1960’s “girl” journalist.  Sheehy reflects on desire, ambition and wanting it all, and how she managed to achieve it all.
            The fourth President of the United States, James Madison, has been misunderstood and underappreciated for years.  Lynne Cheney tries to rectify this situation in James Madison, a Life Reconsidered.  Madison was not only the intellectual force behind the creation of the Constitution, but was essential to its ratification.  He also worked tirelessly to secure passage of the Bill of Rights.  He lead the First Congress and served as President Washington’s chief advisor.  Cheney explores Madison’s genius and debunks myths that have burdened his reputation.
            Worthy Fights by Leon Panetta with Jim Newton is a look at a politician who never shied away   He has been labeled a man who accepted two of the most consequential careers of any American public servant in the past fifty years.  Panetta accepted the position of Director of the CIA in 2009.  He moved the CIA from a state of turmoil back to the vital center of America’s war on terrorism.  Following the death of Osama bin Laden he served as U.S. Secretary of Defense and inherited two troubled wars.  This autobiography is not only a personal memoir, but a look at the defining events and people who have shaped our recent history.
from difficult decisions.
            Robin Roberts has captivated viewers on Good Morning America with her poise, humor and honesty.  Her autobiography Everybody’s Got Something is no different.  This book recounts her battle with breast cancer and the rare blood disorder MDS.  Roberts weaves her own personal history and family throughout the book to explain how she coped with two devastating diagnosis in the course of five years.  This inspirational book will be enjoyed by fans of Roberts as well as those who have struggled with a major illness.
            Jimmy Stewart Bomber Pilot by Starr Smith recounts the military career of one of Hollywood’s brightest stars during World War II.    Stewart enlisted in the army several months before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He was at the height of his fame but felt it was his duty to serve his country.  His transition from Hollywood star to decorated bomber pilot is told in this book filled with historical facts and personal anecdotes. 
            What so Proudly We Hailed by Marc Leepson focuses on the life of songwriter and patriot Francis Scott Key.  The Star Spangled Banner was written under dramatic and unlikely conditions.  Key was on the deck of a British warship in Baltimore harbor during the all-night Battle of Baltimore.  Contradictions were a way of life for Francis Scott Key.  He was a slave owner who fought slave trafficking and defended slaves in court for free.  He was an influential confidant and adviser to Andrew Jackson.  He circulated with intellectuals of the era and played a little-known but important role in shaping the early policies of the United States.
            During the Roaring Twenties, architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris renamed himself Le   His career evolved over the next fifty years so include some of the most important structures in the world as well as architectural and planning theories still used today.  Anthony Flint presents a picture of Le Corbusier in Modern Man, the Life of Le Crobusier, Architect of Tomorrow.  Using archival materials, interviews and the buildings themselves, Flint explains Le Corbusier’s legacy. 
            These and many other biographies await the reader on the shelves at the Peter White Public Library.

By Pam Christensen
Library Director

John Wayne, The Life and Legend

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Fantasy for English majors

Much of my adult life I selected books for their literary merit:  classic works that made up the literary cannon, or contemporary works that followed or built on that tradition.  What can I say? I was an English major.  Then I went to library school, took a children’s literature class and rediscovered my first love:  books that are full of magic. 

Now my favorite reads are those that combine English major nerdy allusions to classical literature with characters, objects, and places that transcend the limitations of the physical world.

When a book showed up on the new book cart called The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic, I couldn’t resist.  First time novelist Emily Croy Baker creates a protagonist who has plenty of book smarts, but no judgment when it comes to personal relationships.  During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, eager to avoid her stalled dissertation, Nora Fischer wanders off and somehow finds herself in another realm. There she meets glamorous people who are as eager to meet her as she is to escape her problems. But when the elegant veneer of this dreamland shatters, Nora finds herself in a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. And the only way she can survive is by learning real magic herself.  According to Baker’s website a sequel is in the works. 

The Book of Life, final book of Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy was published and added to the Peter White Public Library collection this summer.  I was hooked in the first chapter of the first book, A Discovery of Witches.  The main character, a historian interested in alchemy, is sitting in a library reading room in Oxford, when she realizes the book before her is a magical text.   As it turns out, she is quite magical herself.  Certain elements of the series border on the silly (she dates a vampire and they go to yoga class together), but it is all good fun.

City of Dark Magic by Magnes Flyte (pen name for writing team Meg Howrey and Christina Lynch) explores some of the same alchemic territory as the All Soul’s Trilogy.  This book stands out in my memory as one of the all-around most fun reading experiences I’ve had in recent years.  The bulk of the story is somehow simultaneously set in both modern day and not so modern day Prague.  Time becomes fluid in this story.  There are, as the title suggests, elements of dark magic.  The protagonist is a smart young doctoral student of musicology.  I learned a few things about Beethoven.  That's enough background--read the book, have fun. 
Written in a mock academic style complete with windy tangential footnotes, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke recounts an important period of English history (1806-1817) when most people believed magic to be dead.  A big, thick, satisfying read, this book tickled my inner anglophile.  

The Golem and Jinni by Helene Wecker explores what happens when magical creatures from other cultures hit American soil.  Set during the turn of the century as immigrants flocked to New York City, this novel serves as a careful study of both human nature and American history. 

Neil Gaimen explores similar territory in American Gods.  This road trip novel asks the question what would happen when the gods of different immigrant groups traveled to America and confronted the gods the indigenous groups?  Similarly, the work of Canadian author Charles deLint explores how the roles of indigenous gods change as we move to a more urban culture. 

Another good Jinni story can be found in AS Byatt’s The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye:  Five fairy stories.  In the title story, Byatt relates the strange and uncanny relationship between a world renowned scholar of the art of story-telling and the marvelous being that lives in a mysterious bottle, found in a dusty shop in an Istanbul bazaar.

Next for me is A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent  by Marie Brennan.  I received an e-mail this morning informing me that the audiobook is now available for download onto my Ipad through the Library’s Overdrive service.  I can’t wait! 

--Ellen Moore, Webmaster