Monday, July 20, 2015

Summer reading titles for youth

Summer reading is a time of opportunity, a time of freedom. Readers are free to choose books according to individual interests and to thoroughly enjoy the act of reading. Like any acquired skill, reading improves with practice. Practice enhances vocabulary development and comprehension, which both factor into test-taking skills and classroom success. It makes sense that children who read during the summer retain last year’s cognitive skills for their return to the classroom in September.

Written by Michigan author, Kelly DiPucchio, and illustrated by Christian Robinson, Gaston will delight children in Grades K-1, along with their siblings and parents. A young bulldog named Gaston makes every effort to learn his manners, just like his poodle sisters who are “no bigger than teacups,” but he continues to grow, making it difficult to “sip…Never slobber!” and “yip….Never Yap!” A springtime excursion to the park, leads to a chance meeting between the poodles and a family of bulldogs who have an unusual poodle sibling named Antoinette. A look between the mothers makes it clear that two of the dogs were sent home with the wrong families, so they switch pups again. Depending on the age of the reader, this tale of belonging will lead to layers of discussion about family structure. Robinson’s art looks deceptively simple, featuring the pups as negative white space against bright backgrounds. Dots for eyes and nose with a simple mouth line perfectly convey each dog’s personality and joy as Gaston and Antoinette decide to return to the families who raised them. 

I Love You Just Enough by Robbyn Smith van Frankenhuyzen is Story 5 in the Hazel Ridge Farm Stories which feature some of the animals rescued and rehabilitated on the family’s wildlife refuge in central Michigan. The author narrates her daughter Heather’s story from the summer she rescued an abandoned wood duck. Heather takes the rehabilitation process seriously, providing natural pond food for the duck and teaching him how to live independently. Her father warns her that saying goodbye to her summer companion will be hard, but a duck’s home should be with other ducks. It’s a challenge for Heather to love the animal “just enough” to let him leave at the end of summer, but she knows what must be done. This story has enough text to equal a beginning chapter book for Grades 2 and 3, but is even better in picture book format with realistic illustrations painted on canvas by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen. Look for the other four books in the series to make it a full day of reading.

Fourth and fifth grade students won’t stop reading The Madman of Piney Woods until they solve of the mystery behind this local legend set just across the border in Ontario, Canada. Michigan’s own Christopher Paul Curtis lays out a dual storyline with Benji and Red, two boys from very different backgrounds. Benji, a descendant of African-American slaves, loves the outdoors and spends his time playing pranks on his twin siblings, while polishing his writing skills for the local newspaper. Red, nicknamed for his hair color, is second generation Irish and lives in constant fear of his unpredictable Grandmother O’Toole, a survivor of the disease-ridden coffin ships arriving from Ireland in the 1840’s. Benji and Red narrate their own stories and come together for a dramatic rescue involving the Madman. The author sprinkles the pages with humor, adds plenty of adventure, and wraps it up with regional history. Although this is a sequel to ELIJAH OF BUXTON, the thirty year time span and large array of characters allows each story to stand on its own.

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier can be described as quirky and creepy. 14 year-old Molly and her 10 year-old brother, Kip, are orphaned Irish siblings traveling to a household position at the Windsor estate, an isolated English manor with a huge tree growing into it. Molly is quite the storyteller, soothing her brother with tales of the day their parents will return - a story that will never come true, and lying her way out of any trouble that comes her way. She uses her storytelling skills to endear herself to the mysterious Windsor family and begins to care about their welfare. Why is everyone so lethargic and pessimistic?  Could it have something to do with the shadowy Night Gardener who enters her dreams? She and Kip must find answers in order to save themselves and the family they’ve become part of. Auxier creates a quiet suspense that results in a spine-tingling ghost story for Grades 6-8.

--Lynette Suckow, Reference Desk

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Summer Reads: New Adult Fiction

Summer months are the perfect time to escape with fiction and the new book shelves at the Peter White Public Library have plenty of offerings for all reading tastes.
Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indridason is the prequel to the critically acclaimed Inspector Erlendur series.  Readers will find Erlendur as a young and budding detective on the busy streets in Reykjavik.  Erlendur is haunted by the drowning death of a tramp he regularly sees on his nightly rounds.  When nobody else cares about the crime, the young detective gets dragged into the strange and dark underworld of the city in an effort to solve the mystery.
Orient is a small isolated town on the north fork of Long Island.  As the summer draws to a close, the residents are gripped by a series of mysterious deaths.  Mills Chevern is a new resident of town.  An orphan with no ties and a hazy history, suspicion lands on him.  Can he solve the mysteries before time runs out?  That is the question posed in Orient by Christopher Bollen.
High season is coming to an end for Jackson Hole fishing guide Jake Trent.  With time on his hands, the ex-lawyer’s thoughts turn to his sputtering romance with ranger Noelle Klimpton.   Suddenly, a surprise call from a long-lost lover throws his life into disarray.  The second installment in the Jake Trent series by David Riley Bertsch, River of No Return is filled with twists and turns.
            Anne Rice reinvented the vampire universe in her Vampire Chronicles series.   Her latest, Prince Lestat is a chillingly hypnotic thriller that picks up where Rice left off with the Queen of the Damned and The Vampire Lestat.  She creates new characters, legends and lore in this eagerly-awaited novel.
            The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose conjours the brilliance and intrigue of Belle Epoque Paris through the travels of New York socialite Sandrine Salome.  Salome flees an abusive husband by traveling to her grandmother’s Paris mansion.  There she finds a situation more menacing than that which she left at home.
            In southeast Minnesota, a school board meeting is drawing to a deadly close as the Board chair announces that the rest of the meeting will be closed to the public and press.  He persuades his fellow board members to vote for the execution of local reporter Clancy Conley.  Detective Virgil Flowers is confronted with numerous crimes as he is called from one investigation to another in John Sanford’s Deadline.
            Lynne Truss is best known for Eats, Shoots and Leaves: the Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.   She tries her hand at mystery with Cat out of Hell.  Librarian Alec Charlesworth is having a bad day.  He recently lost his job, his beloved wife has just died and to top it off, his sister is missing.  Things can’t get any worse, or can they?  When his sister’s cat Roger starts talking to Alec, he finds that he is not alone.   Roger and Alec try to piece together clues involving local history, mysterious deaths and missing persons in this clever mystery.
            Sano Ichirio’s career as the Shogun’s detective has experienced ups and downs, but nothing seems to be as bad as he finds things in 1709.  He has been demoted to a lowly patrol guard.  His relationship with his wife Reiko is in tatters and his two bitter enemies have formed an alliance.  With the Shogun old and ailing, can Sano find the culprit who tried to murder the Shogun and to destroy Japan before all is lost?  The Iris Fan is the seventeenth novel in Laura Joh Rowland’s Sano Ichirio series. 
            Jane Smiley has written the first in what is to be a new family-saga trilogy set in Iowa.  Spanning three decades, the 1920s through 1950s, Some Luck tells the tale of Roseanna and Walter Langdon and their five children.  Each chapter covers a single year.  As the novel opens, Walter has returned from World War I.  He and Rosanna raise five children, each of whom follows a different path.  Upon completing this novel, Smiley fans will be eagerly awaiting the next installment.
            One of the most popular thrillers this year is Paula Hawkins’ slow burning psychological thriller The Girl on theTrain. Each morning Rachel takes the same London commuter train past a stretch of cozy suburban homes.  Each day, the train stops at the same signal and Rachel observes a couple eating breakfast on their deck.  She starts to spin a fantasy life about the couple, until one day, their perfect life is disrupted by a shocking sight.  Her actions
in reporting the situation spin out of control in a story reminiscent of a Hitchcock thriller.
            Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty also focuses on suburban conflict as three mothers juggle rivalries and plenty of juicy secrets.  The connections between the three women drawn together in a peaceful little town develop into more than they expect.   The little lies they each tell themselves to survive may not be so innocent after all.
             Hildie Good is a native of a small little town on Boston’s rocky North Shore.  She is a successful real estate broker, mother and grandmother, but her children have decided she is too dependent on wine.  They send her off to rehab and upon release, she is in a less than dedicated recovery.  Wealthy newcomer Rebecca McAllister provides some diversion, but also spells danger.  As a cluster of secrets becomes known, this darkly comic novel, The Good House by Ann Leary, takes a deadly turn.
Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood reaffirms her reputation as a chronicler of humankind’s darkest impulses.  This collection of nine loosely linked short stories features grotesque and delightfully wicked facets of humanity.  A fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband.  A young woman disfigured by a genetic defect is mistaken for a vampire while a murderess who has killed all four of her husband exacts her final revenge on the first man who ever wronged her.  Atwood fans will love these tales.
            There is no limit to the variety of fiction available on the new book shelves of the Peter White Public Library.

--Pam Christensen, Library Director

Monday, July 13, 2015


The Fourth of July or Independence Day celebrations include parades, fireworks, picnics and festivals, but July is also a perfect time to retrace the history of the United States.  David McCullough’s book 1776 chronicles the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence.  Based on extensive research in American and British archives, this dramatic story captures the story of Washington and the many men and women caught in the path of war.
            Declaration by William Hogeland tells the story of nine tumultuous weeks when America became independent.  May 1 to July 4, 1776 were fast paced weeks essential to the American founding, but little known today.  The activities of Samuel and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Dickinson and other patriots during that turbulent time is presented in a gripping and vivid portrait of passionate men and thrilling events that gave birth to the USA.
            Political commentator Cokie Roberts has written two books that pay homage to the heroic women whose patriotism and sacrifice helped to create a new nation.  Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty are both colorful blends of biographical portraits and behind-the-scenes vignettes that chronical the women’s public roles and private responsibilities.  Roberts uses personal correspondence, private journals and other primary sources to flesh out the stories of the often overlooked women of the early history of our country.
            A Leap in the Dark by John Ferling is the story of the struggle to create the American Republic.  Ferling traces the history of the Revolutionary era from the first rumblings of colonial protest to the volcanic outburst that was 1776.  He details the seismic struggles of the new nation through the bitterly contested election of 1800.  Each side is represented in this readable history of the early days of the new country.
            A People’s History of the American Revolution skillfully weaves diaries, personal letters, memoirs, and other primary sources into a first-person account of the Revolutionary War from the viewpoint of everyday participants.  The voices of the rank-and-file rebels, the women, Native Americans, African Americans, loyalists and pacifists are heard in this important look at how the masses survived the Revolution.  The role of these lesser-knowns illuminates the story of what life was like during this volatile period.
            Thomas Fleming is a distinguished historian and the author of many novels and non-fiction titles that capture history and make it more understandable.  His novels Time and Tide, Liberty Tavern and Dreams of Glory are fictional accounts of the early days of the United States and Revolutionary War period.  Liberty! The American Revolution is the companion volume to the six-part award winning PBS miniseries by the same name. 
Fleming has recently written Duel-Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and the Future of America.  Most everyone is familiar with the fatal duel that Hamilton and Burr fought in 1804 in Weehawken, New Jersey.  The success of the French Revolution and the proclamation of Napoleon as First Consul for Life had enormous impact on men like Hamilton and Burr.  Their own political fantasies and hunger for fame were enhanced by a perceived weakness in the Federal government and turbulent times.  From that poisonous brew came the tangle of regret, anger and ambition that drove the two men to their murderous confrontation.
Fleming also captures the conflicts of those early years in The Great Divide.  History has a tendency to cast a glow of camaraderie across the infant years of the United States, but there were many conflicts between the Founding Fathers.  The most important being the disagreements between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  Their disagreements centered on the highest and most original public office created by the Constitutional Convention: the presidency, but also involved the nation’s foreign policy, the role of merchants and farmers in the republic and the durability of the union itself. 
Spies have always played an important role in conflict, but the identity of spies and their exploits are not often publicized.  Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger spent years researching the role of the Culper Spy Ring.  These six individuals saved the American Revolution.  Their identities were so well hid; one of them, a woman called Agent 355, is still nameless today.  George Washington’s Secret Six is the story of these five brave men and one woman who infiltrated British operations with such effectiveness and, in their own way, played a pivotal role in the fledgling country’s success.
Joseph J. Ellis is a Pulitzer Prize winning author who has focused on the Revolutionary period in much of his work.  American Creation recounts the triumphs and tragedies of the founding of the Republic.  From the first shots fired at Lexington, the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase, Ellis details the decisive issues in the founding of the United States.  The fact that the Revolution was brought about by a group of individuals made it so extraordinary and different from other revolutions in other countries.  He contends that this evolution is one of the reasons the country has been so durable and such a success.
Ellis’ Revolutionary Summer recounts the moment in American history that brought about the most consequential events in the story of the country’s founding.  He weaves together the military and political experiences of both sides of the single story showing how events on one front influenced outcomes on the other. 
Much has been written about the Revolutionary heroes, but those on the other side of political fence are often overlooked.  Maya Jasanoff explores the story of the American Loyalists in the Revolutionary War in Liberty’s Exiles.  On November 25, 1783, when the British troops pulled out of New York City, Patriots celebrated their departure.  For tens of thousands of American loyalists, the British evacuation spelled worry not jubilation.  60,000 loyalists-one for every 40 U.S. residents left their homes to become refugees elsewhere in the British Empire.  The story of this remarkable global diaspora and those who fled is eloquently told in this narrative history.
Edward J. Larson has compiled a groundbreaking look at the forgotten years of George Washington in The Return of George Washington.  After commanding the Continental Army to victory, Washington shocked the nation as he retired and returned to his beloved Mount Vernon. Four years later, he rode from Mount Vernon to lead the Constitutional Convention; he was the one American who could unite the rapidly disintegrating country.  This book tells the little known story of Washington’s personal sacrifice to save the nation he loved.

--Pam Christensen, Library Director