Sunday, February 21, 2016

Great Lakes Great Books

The 2016/2017 Great Lakes Great Books Committee recently met to chose the best literature written in 2015 for Kindergarten through High School readers. Eight books for each of the five age categories were selected to receive this Michigan award, including this list for Fourth and Fifth grade students: Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff, Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt and:

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan begins with three sisters who are bound to the forest by a witch who lays a curse on them that can only be broken when they save the life of a boy. When a young boy stumbles into their woods, they gift him with a harmonica that plays better than any other ever made – capable of three melodies at once. The boy becomes a harmonica maker and the harmonica gets stored away, until it finds its way into the hands of a young German boy with a facial birthmark, putting him in opposition of Hitler’s perfect German policy. A year later, in California a Mexican family has an opportunity to manage a large farm for the Japanese landowners who interned during WWII, where the harmonica resurfaces in a hidden room. Finally, the harmonica lands with two orphaned brothers desperate to be adopted, but placed with an heiress who wanted to adopt just one child, and a girl, not a boy. Ryan’s spellbinding tale tugs at heart strings, while dealing with complex historical issues; and will delight readers of all ages.

In Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper the line is clear. If your skin is dark, you attend school, church and social functions with people who also have dark skin. If it’s white, you can do whatever you want, including vote.  In the segregated south of 1932, injustice pours out over the black community of Bumblebee, North Carolina. A cross-burning in the night, followed by threats and other acts of vandalism and crime by the Klu Klux Klan shatter 10 year old Stella’s perceived safety in her community and family. As she struggles to make sense of the brutality and the fear that she sees in her adult neighbors’ and parents’ eyes, Stella longs to share the story with the world. Using writing as an outlet, she chronicles the journey her father and two men take to register to vote, as well as the night a family of 11 is burned out of their home, and the clues that point to the identity of the KKK leader in her community. Draper’s superb writing shares a story of hope in the face of terror; a book that should not be missed.  

Part imagination and part wonderful, Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley is a spell-binding book that explores navigating new friendships, finding hope in bleak circumstances, saying goodbye to a dying family member and believing in magic. Micah’s grandfather Ephraim has told him about the Circus Mirandus for years, and he now wants Micah to go find the light bender to grant him a dying wish. Sneaking around his bitter, hostile Aunt is no easy task, and Micah has no idea where to look for this magical place. Furthermore, Micah has the opportunity to start a new friendship with Jenny Mendoza, a journey of awkward proportions that he does not easily navigate. Should he include Jenny in his urgent quest to find the circus performer whom his grandfather met some 70 years ago? And how will they convince him to fulfill his grandfather’s request?  Readers will applaud how this social misfit faces his fears of inadequacy and loneliness as he works through grief and loss. 

In Plastic Ahoy!: Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman, two young scientists seek to measure the size, both surface area and depth, of the plastic soup in the Pacific Ocean gyre, as well as how it affects the marine life’s ecosystem. With excellent pictures, maps and fact charts, readers learn how two undergraduate students propose a hypothesis, then use the scientific method in the field to answer their questions. This book chronicles their journey to the North Pacific Central gyre with a team of scientists and explorers. It gives readers a real sense of how scientific exploration works, what it costs, and how sometimes the focus shifts as one question can lead to bigger questions that may or may not be answered.

Snow White and the Seven Robots by Louise Simonson offers a new twist on a classic fairy tale, while still including seven lovable miners and a very vain queen. While she knows she will have to relinquish her crown and related powers someday, the queen devises a plan to genetically alter her successor to be an ugly, unusual baby girl with none of the traits that the galaxy’s subjects look for in a queen. Unfortunately her plan, like in the original story, backfires and she is faced with a brave, fair, just young woman who threatens her days of rule. So the Queen orders a robot to kill Snow, setting into motion Snow’s escape by spaceship. Snow White lands on a planet that mines jewels and befriends seven charming robots who work to keep Snow safe from the evil queen. A modern twist on this fairy tale ending will leave audiences talking and wanting more.

In The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart a boy sets out to become a man before cancer ravages his body. The only goal on his bucket list is to climb to the top of Mount Rainier. Telling only his best friend Jessie, he sets off across country on a bus with a few dollars and his dog Beau. Unsure of where he went, his parents and authorities launch a massive search for Mark, who sets up diversions to throw them off his trail. Jessie is faced with her own dilemma: should she tell Mark’s parents his intended destination, or in the name of friendship allow him to complete his journey? It’s not that Mark is a normally a deceptive kid. It’s just that he wants to complete the task, in order to keep a promise to his deceased grandfather - before the adults barge in and stop him. This moving coming of age story offers relatable characters, a sweet dog - boy connection; and an authentic look at the consequences Mark experiences as he naively strides toward his destination.

--By Jeni Kilpela, Library Assistant, Youth Services

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sci-fi alternative histories

Alternative histories are a sub-set of the science fiction/fantasy genre. According to the Library of Congress’ Genre definitions, alternative histories are, “fiction in which the plot or setting assumes an alternative outcome of an historical event.” Today, you’ll get a little taste of new alternative histories available at the Peter White Public Library.

The Shards of Heaven, by Michael Livingston
Set in Rome after the assassination of Julius Caesar, The Shards of Heaven explores how the glory of Rome will remain without a ruthless leader. As Octavian Caesar, the nephew and adopted son of the great Caesar, and Marc Anthony and Cleopatra vie for control, the empire falls into a civil war. However, as the war wages on from Rome to Alexandria, Caesar’s two sons set forth on a quest to find mystical artifacts, with a link to God, known as the Shards of Heaven, to end the civil war. Michael Livingston, a professor of English and Medieval studies at the Citadel in South Carolina provides vivid scenery and historically accurate accounts in his debut novel. For those looking for alternative histories rooted deeply in historical truths, “The Shards of Heaven” is sure to please.

Radiance, by Catherynne M. Valentine
Described as a “decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood-and solar system-very different from our own,” Radiance is for the adventurous reader.  In a universe where Hollywood found its home on Earth’s moon and Thomas Edison refuses to release his patents for talking films, director Percival Unck is the king of the silent film and documents his entire life on film. Severin, his daughter of mysterious origins, grows into the film world as an actress and filmmaker in her own right. However, when the filming of her documentary about the disappearance of the Venusian city Adonis goes awry, many have questions and few have answers. Told as scripts, film reviews, interviews, and narrative, “Radiance” is a galactic tale about one woman’s struggles with family, love, and film.

Straits of Hell, by Taylor Anderson
Fans of Taylor Anderson will already be familiar with the Destroyermen series, a set of books dedicated to the adventures of the USS Walker and the Japanese battlecruiser Amagi during World War II. After being transported to a world where humans never evolved, the two predominant life forms are the Lemurians, evolved lemurs from Madagascar, and the Grik said to be descendants of dinosaurs. Straits of Hell is the tenth book of the Destryermen series and follows Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reedy of the USS Walker and the growing alliance he builds with the Lemurians as the civil war between them and the Grik’s continues on over the ancestral land of Madagascar. Anderson’s command of history is apparent; along with being an author, he is a gun maker and forensic ballistic archeologist.

Bombs Away: The Hot War by Harry Turtledove
Harry Turtledove has been named “The Master of Alternative History” by Publisher’s Weekly, a literary review magazine.  Turtledove’s books are often rooted in military and wartime history, focusing on World War II and the American Civil War. In Bombs Away the first of his new Hot War series, Turtledove focuses on the Korean War in 1951 when President Truman agrees with General MacArthur’s request to use nuclear bombs in Northeastern China. In response, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin launches a nuclear attack in many western European cities. While the powers that be decide who gets bombed, “Bombs Away” focuses on the bystanders, barmaids, and veterans, and how different the world will be after the dust has settled.

Manners & Mutiny, by Gail Carriger
The fourth book in Gail Carriger’s “Finishing School” series, Manners & Mutiny follows the students aboard a finishing school in a dirigible, otherwise known as “Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality”. Young girls, like fourteen-year old Sophronia, attend the school to learn to dance, dress, engage in conversation and have impeccable etiquette while also learning more deadly arts like deceit, diversion, and modern weapons. In Manners & Mutiny Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, trusty canine robot Soap, and Lord Felix Mersey work to return their friend to her werewolf pack in Scotland. If you’re looking for a straight forward steampunk alternative history, all of Gail Carriger’s series are a great choice.

by Tracy Boehm, Technical Services Librarian

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

For dog lovers

Have an animal in your home? Lots of us do. I have suggested cat stories before, since I have three cats of my own, so now I’m writing about dogs, which are the animals I grew up with. Dogs bring pleasure to our lives, but they can also do a lot more. Enjoy the following reads. 

The Second Chance Dog, A Love Story, by Jon Katz. 
In 2007, a few years after purchasing Bedlam Farm in upstate New York, Jon Katz met Maria Wulf, a quiet, sensitive artist hoping to rekindle her creative spark. Jon, like her, was introspective yet restless, a writer struggling to find his purpose. He felt a connection with her immediately, but a formidable obstacle stood in the way: Maria’s dog, Frieda. A Rottweiler-shepherd mix who had been abandoned by her previous owner in the Adirondacks, where she lived in the wild for several years, Frieda was ferociously protective and barely tamed. She roared and charged at almost anyone who came near. But to Maria, Frieda was sweet and loyal, her beloved guard dog and devoted friend. And so Jon quickly realized that to win over Maria, he’d have to gain Frieda’s affection as well. While he and Maria grew closer, Jon was having a tougher time charming Frieda to his side. Even after many days spent on Bedlam Farm, Frieda still lunged at the other animals, ran off into the woods, and would not let Jon come near her, even to hook on her leash. Yet armed with a singular determination, unlimited patience, and five hundred dollars’ worth of beef jerky, Jon refused to give up on Frieda, or on his chance with Maria. Written with stunning emotional clarity and full of warm yet practical wisdom, The Second-Chance Dog is a testament to how animals can make us better people, and how it’s never too late to fine love. 

James Herriot’s Favorite Dog Stories, by James Herriot. 
When James decided he wanted to be a vet, he knew that he wanted to be a dog doctor, so he could spend all his time with dogs. As everyone knows, James Herriot became much more than a dog doctor. But no animal was dearer to his heart, and no animal provided him with more heartwarming and wonderful tales, then man’s best friend. Enjoy ten of James Herriot’s most beloved stories about dogs. There is Jock the sheepdog, rescued from neglect by a doting mistress. There is Brandy, a mutt who’s only happy (and healthy) when he’s digging in a dustbin. Others are Border collies, dachshunds, and even Tricki Woo, the memorable Pekingese. In the books pages the celebrated Yorkshire vet brings to life these animals’ human counterparts, painting them with warmth and humor in equal measure. This collection of tales is a welcome gift from one of the greatest storytellers of our time. 

Haatchi & Little B; the inspiring true story of one boy and his dog, by Wendy Holden. 
When Owen, known to his family as “little buddy” or “Little B, met Haatchi, the lives of one adorable little boy and one great, big dog were destined to change forever. Owen has a rare genetic disorder that leaves him largely confined to a wheelchair. He also found it difficult to make friends. Haatchi was abused and left for dead on railroad tracks. He was struck by an oncoming train, and although his life was saved, his leg and tail were partially severed. He was massively disabled and totally dispirited. But then Little B’s father and stepmother decided to introduce the big dog and the boy to each other, and an unbelievable bond was formed that transformed both boy and dog in miraculous ways. This story is a true story of a little boy and a very special big dog and the most wonderful pair you will ever read about. 

Elle & Coach; diabetes, the fight for my daughter’s life, and the dog who changed everything by Stefany Shaheen. 
When her oldest daughter, 8 year old Elle, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, Stefany confronted a terrifying new reality; without constant monitoring and treatment, Elle could face grim consequences, even death. Treatment meant shots of insulin, testing blood sugar levels, pricking fingers numerous times a day. Tests have to be done before meals, snacks, activities, before bedtime, during the night and several other times during the day. When Elle’s blood sugar levels repeatedly dropped without warning the stress took its toll on the entire family. Along the way Stefany and Elle heard stories about the growing field of medic-alert dogs; four-legged friends who are celebrated for having the ability to detect seizures, alert people with diabetes when blood sugar levels rise too high or fall too low, and several other medical conditions. They decide to give a dog a try. Enter an adorable, hardworking yellow Lab named Coach. When he joined the family, life gradually improved. Elle seemed at ease for the first time since her diagnosis. Could a dog really make a difference in Elle’s life? Would Coach have a positive effect on her health? The journey had struggles, humor and inspiration, but they did arrive at an answer. A compelling story of overcoming, Elle & Coach reminds us of the power of the human-animal connection, and the profound nature of a mother’s love for her daughter. 

Lessons from Tara; life advice from the world’s most brilliant dog, by David Rosenfelt.
Loyal readers of the Andy Carpenter series are familiar with Tara, Andy’s golden retriever sidekick. This book tells you about David and how he became a slightly nutty canine rescuer and the dog that started it all. Here is a book about the inspirational pooch who taught David everything he knows. Through Tara and many other dogs he has saved over the years, David learned about being able to share his emotions, about guts and resilience and so much more. This book is infused with David’s trademark wry and self-deprecating sense of humor and will move readers to tears and laughter. 

--Arlette Dubord, Technical Services Assistant

Monday, February 1, 2016

Mind nourishing books to share with children

As adults resolve to get fit and eat better in 2016, it is also a great time to grow a child’s mind - both their curiosity and vocabulary. From babies to students just learning to read, invite your child to snuggle on your lap and enjoy a great book. You’ll find plenty of mind nourishing titles in the Children’s Room at the Peter White Public Library.
I Will Chomp You by Jory John.  Sometimes toddlers can be demanding. In this book a grumpy monster threatens to “chomp”’ the reader if he or she turns any more pages. The monster seems irrationally irate - sound familiar parents?  But it is not until the middle of the book that the audience learns the monter's prized cake collection is featured on some of the last pages. He does not want to share. This tale about communicating emotions is a fun read-aloud that both children and parents will enjoy. Although be warned – you might want cake after reading it. 
As a young girl I loved stories of the Hundred Acre Wood – of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends. I never knew that A.A. Milne’s inspiration was a real bear, named Winnie, who spent most of her life in the London Zoo. Winnie caught the eye of Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, and the rest is history. Winnie’s story is truly fascinating and lovingly presented by Lindsay Mattick in Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear. It recently received the Randolph Caldecott medal for its illustrations by Sophie Blackall. After a Canadian soldier rescued Winnie from a trapper who planned to shoot her, the soldier and his company took Winnie as a mascot to the warzone. When that became too dangerous she was temporarily lodged at the London Zoo, where she captured visitors hearts and remained for the rest of her life. Mattick’s descriptions of the relationship between the Winnipeg native Harry Colebourn and Winnie points to what a special bear Winnie was and why she was the inspiration for the best known children’s literature of the 20th century.  
A grandparent’s love for a grandchild is captured beautifully in Mr. Frank by Irene Luxbacher.  In the book Mr. Frank, a tailor, makes an outfit that he deems “perfect.” With illustrations depicting clothing from each decade passed, he compares the outfit with the other special outfits he has sewn over a 50 year career. Yet they all seem less grand than the garment he tailored for this one customer. After Luxbacher reveals the outfit is a superhero costume for Mr. Frank’s grandson, readers are left with the image of a young boy eagerly watching his grandfather create art with love.    
With its rhyming, short text the story of NHL legend Bobby Orr’s childhood is now accessible for the youngest readers in The Boy in Number Four by Kara Kootstra.  Ontario author Kootstra captures the commitment, drive, and love of hockey Orr had as a young boy. Regan Thomson’s illustrations of predawn and after dark practices, driveway drills, broken bones, wins, losses, and a play-by-play of a specific game engage readers as they cheer on the boy wearing jersey number four. An afterword by Orr, who was inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979, offers a glimpse into his boyhood dream, like many young boys and girls today. His story is relatable to all those who loved to play outdoors with their friends.
The dynamic duo are back in Mo Willems’ latest installment of the “Elephant and Piggie” series. What happens when your best friend finds your favorite food, well, disgusting? This is the story in I Really Like Slop. What Piggie finds delectable, delicious, and a very important part of pig culture –green  slop- Gerald finds stinky, unappetizing, and just plan yucky. But in a heartwarming display of friendship, Gerald agrees to try Piggie’s slop. This easy to read and fun to digest tale of friends accepting and engaging their cultural differences opens the door to multicultural conversations with young readers.
When babies learn first words, “happy” might be included in that vocabulary list. Emma Dodd creates a rhythmic prose in her book Happy, capturing the joy of language at an early age. Using flecks of gold and a beautiful night sky, Dodd draws a mother and baby owl engaging in typical parent - toddler behavior – all the things that bring the young one sheer happiness. Parents won’t mind when their child uses another new word for this book: “more.”

--Jenifer Kilpela, Youth Services