Monday, May 30, 2016

New teen books

Check out the following new titles in the Young Adult collection on the main floor. 

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black features Hazel and Ben, siblings from the town of Fairfold, who have always lived with a healthy respect for the magical powers of the "folk" who live in the surrounding forest.  After all, there's a horned boy sleeping in a glass coffin in the forest, much like the fairy tale character Snow White, who has fascinated the pair since childhood.  Hazel's biggest problem at the moment is that she has a reputation for kissing all the boys, except the one she really likes, and Ben can't seem to find a suitable boyfriend.  Everyday worries are soon put aside when the school comes under attack by Sorrow, a horrible tree-like creature that puts anyone nearby under a spell of sadness.  At the same time, the horned boy is released from his enclosure in the forest and finds his way to Fairfold, meeting up with Ben, and putting the brother and sister team into the middle of a fairy war.  Secrets from the past are revealed in both mortal and fairy families as the adventure widens to include a vengeful fairy king and the magical creatures he controls.  Holly Black delivers another exciting teen fantasy full of romance, imagination, and adventure.

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit begins when Anna, only seven years old, finds herself alone on the doorstep of her locked apartment as her father, a linguistics professor, is rounded up with other intellectuals by German soldiers during the Nazi takeover of Poland.  Her father’s friend, Herr Doktor Fuchsmann, deserts Anna when he realizes that her father is not returning from his meeting.  A tall thin man, later named Swallow Man by Anna, recognizes her plight and sees potential for disguising himself, so he acts as her father as they both escape from the city.  While keeping mostly to the forest for safety, the pair meets a Jewish musician, a peddler of questionable character, and an unscrupulous physician.  There’s danger around every corner and the suspense never stops. Anna learns something from each of the father figures in the story, but the most valuable lessons come from her philosophical conversations about war and humanity with the Swallow Man.  Communication is the overriding theme of the story.  Anna’s father is a linguist who taught Anna to be fluent in several languages.  Swallow Man also knows several languages, including “road,” an adaptation to local language that allows you to blend in and acquire what you need to survive while traveling.  He also knows the chirping language of birds and what the vocalizations mean in the natural world, another skill for survival.  This book is a study of relationships, how they evolve when war replaces the rules of civility, and the part of our human nature that is “hope.”

The recipe for outstanding historical fiction like Salt to the Sea begins with author Ruta Sepetys, who just happened to be doing some family research and discovered the sinking of the ocean liner, Wilhelm Gustloff, near the end of World War II (1945), an incident that is not well known by Americans.  Add four substantial characters with different backgrounds and perspectives (and secrets of their own) who each tell their tales, filling in bits of history to make the story complete. Florian, Joana, and Emilia are all refugees who end up traveling together to reach the northern coast of Poland, where they can board a ship to Germany - and safely.  The journey is arduous, especially for Emilia whose pregnancy becomes more apparent with every day, and forces them to modify the social and moral boundaries of their previous lives.  The fourth character is Alfred, a young follower of Hitler and a bully, who thinks he’s finally found his place in the world as a Nazi supporter.  Four stories intertwine to narrate the suspenseful journey through occupied territory to gain a chance for survival on the refugee ship.  In addition to the historical information at the back of the book, learn more about the Wilhelm Gustloff at

X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon is categorized as historical fiction because it’s the storyteller’s version of Malcom X’s biography.  The book is written by Malcolm Little’s daughter, who had knowledge of family stories, along with Magoon, award winning author of young adult novels, which may explain why this book was crafted as a work of fiction.  The story, told in first person narrative, covers the years from 1930 to 1948, flashing back to Little’s childhood surrounded by family in Lansing, Michigan during the Great Depression.  His traditional upbringing disintegrates with the loss of Malcolm’s father, the redistribution of the family by social services, and his experiences in foster care.  As a teen, he becomes involved in illegal activities and heads out to the east coast, ending up in Harlem and finally in prison.  With the help of the authors, Malcolm’s story becomes more than just a case study from American history.  It’s a story full of childhood memories and emotions experienced by a young black man in segregated America, leaving clues as to why he transformed into Civil Rights leader, Malcolm X, in his later years. 

--Lynette Suckow, Reference Desk.

Monday, May 23, 2016

On your mark, get set, READ! Kid's books for summer

June 4th is the Kickoff for our Summer Reading Program, this year themed “On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!”. With fun activities, programs, and logging your reading minutes to earn free books this summer coming up, here is a list of great books for kids to get your summer off to a great start.

Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson
This inspiring picture book tells the story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, who was born in Ghana in 1977 with a deformed left leg-and went on to bike 400 miles in 2001 to raise awareness and change perception of people with disabilities in Ghana. With warm illustration and thoughtful text, the author shows how Emmanuel persevered, hopping 2 miles to school every day, bought and shared his soccer ball as long as he could play on the team, and taught himself how to ride a bike with only one leg. This picture book truly shows that being “disabled does not mean unable”. An extraordinary story about an extraordinary person.

Good Night Owl by Greg Pizzoli
This adorable picture book is the perfect story for bedtime, with charming illustrations and a fun look-and-find aspect for the sharp-eyed children. Owl has settled into bed, but as soon as he does, he hears a sound, and he’ll never get to sleep until he finds what is making the sound. He looks everywhere, but fails to notice one small little detail.  This adorable picture book is the perfect story for bedtime, with charming illustrations and a fun giggle-worthy look-and-find as children spy the noisy intruder keeping owl from getting a good night’s sleep.

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
The newest book by Rick Riordan, author of several popular fantasy series for middle school kids needs little selling. Riordan continues his exploration of the world created in his Percy Jackson series by introducing some new characters. The god Apollo has irritated in father Zeus enough to be cast out of Olympus and tossed down into New York City as a mortal. With the help of a preteen demi god, the 4000 year old teenage deity makes his way to Camp Half-Blood with hilarious hijinks and enough snarky attitude to engage the most reluctant of readers. This is the perfect book to start off your summer reading list.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeiers, kids will love this graphic novel. 12 year old Astrid and Nicole  have always done everything together. But this summer, Astrid signs up for derby camp and Nicole signs up for ballet. The two girls find their friendship tested as they make new friends and form new interests. This book nicely combines the excitement and sometimes danger of the rough-and-tumble sport roller derby with the trials of growing up and apart from childhood friends.

El Deafo by Cece Bell
This touching graphic novel shows the difficult journey that the young Cece goes through after losing her hearing from spinal meningitis. Cece doesn’t pull any punches in this book, laying out clearly the difficulty of having to use hearing aids, learning how to lip read, making new friends, trying to watch TV and more. Cece lightens the conversation with cheery illustrations and characterizing everyone as rabbits. She also shows how as a child she dealt with the trials of being deaf by imaging herself as a super hero, El Deafo. With an honest afterwards explaining how she chose as a child not to learn ALS, and her later appreciation for the language, this is not a book to be missed.

--Sarah Rehborg, Youth Services Librarian

Monday, May 16, 2016

Nonfiction Graphic Novels

Many readers do not think about graphic novels as nonfiction resources, but there are many great memoirs and nonfiction graphic novels which combine educational enrichment with great art. Here are a few of our new nonfiction graphic novels available at the Peter White Public Library.  

Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality, and the Financial Crisis
By Darryl Cunningham
Many people would not consider books about economics and philosophy to be engaging reads; however, in Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality, and the Financial Crisis, Darryl Cunningham delivers a concise narrative of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism and it’s connection to the economic meltdown of 2008. For those unfamiliar with Rand and her philosophy, the book is broken down into three parts, “Ayn Rand”, a biography, “The Crash”, a look at Alan Greenspan’s interpretation of Rand’s philosophy and how it led to the 2008 financial crisis,  and “The Age of Selfishness”, an exploration of the aftermath of the meltdown and commentary of those who follow Rand’s philosophies and principles. Cunningham has written several nonfiction graphic novels including Science Tales: Lies, Hoaxes and Scams, How to Fake the a Moon Landing, and Psychiatric Tales. Be sure to check them out for intriguing and thought provoking reads.

Out on the Wire: the Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio
By Jessica Abel
Podcasts, downloadable radio like programs, have become increasingly popular as a way to hear interesting stories and learn more about a vast array of topics. Some tell narrative stories about fictional lands and are close cousins to old time radio dramas while others craft expertly researched and written news pieces. In Out on the Wire, Jessica Abel draws on the creative minds behind the podcasts Serial, This American Life, and Radiolab to explore the techniques and tricks of these impeccable story tellers. What is very interesting about this book is the use of the graphic narrative to explore an auditory experience. Author/illustrator Jessica Abel has been creating comics for over 25 years and uses her storytelling expertise to complement the master storytellers in the podcasts she explores. 

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer
By Sydney Padua
Breakout graphic novelist Sydney Padua’s The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage takes a comical and informative look at the relationship between Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage, and the first computational code. Many people have heard of Lovelace and Babbage in relation to computers, but this unique comic embellishes on their adventures while teaching the history and science behind their inventions. The art is wonderfully whimsical and Padua’s research, including biographical research and correspondences, provide a wonderfully twisted story for this alternative steampunk history. For those who like non-fiction with a fictional twist, this is a great graphic novel for you.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures
By Phoebe Gloeckner
This autobiographical graphic novel is, at times, uncomfortable to read but presents a coming of age story many of us can relate to on some level. Meet Minnie Goetze, a fifteen-year-old girl growing up in 1970s San Francisco. Left to her own devices by her absent and narcissistic mother, Minnie dives into the adult world of drugs, sex, and out of control behavior. This mixed media graphic novel includes pages from a teenager’s diary, long form prose and traditional comic book panels. Graphic novelist Phoebe Gloeckner got her start as a medical illustrator and is currently a professor at the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art & Design.

Steve Jobs: Insanely Great
By Jessie Hartland
Whether you own an iPhone, have seen the Steve Jobs movie, or love Pixar films, Steve Jobs: Insanely Great is a fast paced, in-depth look at the life of Steve Jobs. This graphic biography follows Jobs from his birth and adoption to his rebellious young adulthood and his relationships which challenged and complemented his intellectual prowess. While many biographies of Jobs’ life could seem more like computer science textbooks, what makes Hartland’s book accessible is it’s ability to seamlessly define and explain complex terms and theories with ease. The pages are jam packed with amazing illustrations and dense text. Geared to teenagers, this book is sure to impress and inspire teens and adults alike.

--Tracy Boehm, Technical Services Librarian 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Summer Beach Reads

There is nothing more enjoyable to lift your spirts than summer.  Stop in the library to check out these titles about beaches to warm up your day no matter what the temperature.

Andrews, Mary Kay.  Beach Town.  2015.  The main character, Greer, when looking for a fresh start from several flopped movie projects finds a sleepy little town in Florida with miles of beautiful beach front that will make the perfect movie spot. She never thought the stakes for control would be so high. The mayor of the community is not easily sold on the project and Greer finds herself in a battle for wills between her heart and head.  A romance quickly develops between Greer and the Mayor of the community.  Andrews’s masterfully weaves secondary characters and subplots to the story which provided great entertainment.  

Shishak, Lei. Beach House Baking: an endless summer of delicious desserts.  2014.  641.86 Sh.  What is summer without food that satisfies your appetite?  Lei Shishak is a professional pastry chef who has worked in New York and California. There are recipes for heart healthy, vegan, gluten free, and my favorite, picnics on the beach.  Try Blackberry Mascarpone Mousse cupcakes or the Lemon Ricotta Cracked Cheesecake.  Both are extremely rich and divine in taste. 

Roberts, Nora.  Whiskey Beach.  2013.  Roberts is well known for her ability to master romantic suspense novels.  The story contains all the things that devoted fans have come to expect from her novels; gal pals, romance,  and close knit family all intertwined within a cozy mystery. The story occurs around an individual Eli who is suspected for the murder of his wife.  As the mystery intensifies, Eli takes up residence at his grandmother’s historical residence, the Bluff House to assist in her recovery from a fall and begins writing as a way to keep his mind busy. Throughout the story Eli uses his legal knowledge, wits and skill to identify the murder of his wife while falling in love with Abra Walsh, his grandmother’s aide.

Wax, Wendy.  Ocean Beach.  2012.  Wendy Wax is well known for her use of contemporary fiction to write and explore friendship, loyalty and self-discovery.  Following on Ten Beach Road, the novel describes the continuing exploits of a tight-knit group of girlfriends, Madeline, Avery and Nicole, who have turned to home renovation and flipping as a way of getting back on their feet after a series of financial mishaps. The house flipping footage of the main characters has turned them into a YouTube sensation and they are courted by a TV network to participate in a home makeover reality series.  After renovation work begins on the estate  it becomes very apparent to the girls that they reality series is more focused on them and their private life than that of the property being overhauled.  The end result is a light story in which the main characters engage in personal growth as they go through the renovation project.

--Diana Menhennick, Reference Department

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Stories of survival and adventure

Peter White Public Library’s non-fiction book group called The Human Condition meets on the third Wednesday of each month.  We discuss stories of survival and adventure, frequently with a multicultural, spiritual, or philosophical approach. Here are a few of our recent reads.

Savage Harvest:  A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman
Michael Rockefeller was the youngest son of massive wealth and power who, after graduating from Harvard, headed as far from civilization as possible on a quest for indigenous art. Many of the natives in New Guinea were still warring cannibals at that time. Rockefeller disappeared in 1961, never to be found, after his boat capsized. “Savage Harvest” is a tremendously compelling read from cover to cover. Author Carl Hoffman, a contributing editor at National Geographic Magazine, entwines travel journalism-style reporting of his recent excursions to remote villages in New Guinea, with a painstakingly-researched account of Rockefeller’s disappearance. Hoffman uncovers a plausible solution to the mystery. Correspondences suppressed by Church missionaries, as well as a chilling confession on the final page, seem to confirm a worst-possible theory about an unthinkable demise for the young Rockefeller. Favorite quote:  “Those who began swarming into the exotic world, however, were not just acquiring inanimate objects, but walking into something else entirely: a potentially dangerous world of spirits who could make them sick or even kill them, of secrets and meanings whose language they didn’t speak, whose symbols they didn’t understand, and where life and death, literally, hung in the balance.

The Tiger:  A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant
599.756 VAILLANT
Writer John Vaillant traveled to the remote taiga (boreal forest) environment of Amur, Siberia, near China.  He documents the efforts of a small group of government game wardens tasked with tracking down a man-eating Amur tiger. These tigers are the largest cats on earth, and a threatened species on the verge of extinction, especially in corrupt, economically-depressed, post-Soviet Siberia. Vaillant’s protagonist is tough yet warm-hearted tracker Yuri Trush, tasked with hunting a particularly ferocious tiger which stalked and killed local hunter Markov. The charm of the book lies in skillful descriptions of the environment, and the fact that populations of humans and tigers have coexisted for millennia. Massively enjoyable is the skill with which Vaillant keeps the reader in suspense as the group closes in on the killer beast, an extremely intelligent animal with an almost supernatural ability to stalk its unlucky prey. Favorite quote:  “Fear is not a sin in the taiga, but cow­ardice is.”

The Cruelest Journey:  600 Miles to Timbuktu by Kira Salak
916.62 SALAK
Kira Salak is a National Geographic contributing editor who paddled an inflatable canoe alone for 600 miles up the Niger River in Mali, Africa. In 2004 Salak was inspired to complete the unfinished travels of Scottish explorer Mungo Park, who died trying to discover the source of the Niger in 1806. She details her encounters with shamanic fortunetellers, ferocious storms, and exceedingly patriarchal Islamic villagers. Interestingly, Peter White Public Library screened the recent film “Timbuktu”, which dramatizes the dreadful changes brought on by the recent spread of Islamist groups in the same region. Favorite quote:  “Hardship brings us closer to truth, and thus is more difficult to bear, but from it alone comes compassion. And so I've told the world that it can do what it wants with me during this trip if only, by the end, I have learned something more. A bargain then. The journey, my teacher.”

At Hell’s Gate:  A Soldier’s Journey from War to Peace by Claude Anshin Thomas
294.3927 THOMAS
Vietnam veteran Claude Anshin Thomas experienced the hell of combat during his service as an Army helicopter gunner, only to return to experience the dreadful symptoms of PTSD, homelessness, and addiction. In his book At Hell’s Gate he describes the turning points in his life toward sobriety and healing, as he eventually achieves ordination as a Zen Buddhist monk by noted teacher Bernie Glassman. For the past two decades Anshin has undertaken pilgrimages on foot, including walking all the way from the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland to Vietnam. He has hiked from coast to coast across the United States twice, and regularly holds Buddhist lectures and retreats for veterans with PTSD. The most important lesson Anshin describes is that each of us carries the seeds of violence and war within, and that a personal transformation is essential if the world is to know any semblance of peace. Favorite quote:  I have to do things differently. But I cannot think myself into a new way of living, I have to live myself into a new way of thinking.”

The Golden Spruce:  A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed by John Vaillant
333.7513 VAILLANT
John Vaillant appears on this list again with a fantastic analysis of a truly bizarre and tragic occurrence. In 1997 logger-turned-activist Grant Hadwin single-handedly cut down a rare 165-foot-tall Sitka spruce tree with a chainsaw on an island off the coast of British Columbia. Vaillant spends a good portion of the book detailing the mythology and history of the Pacific Northwest Haida tribe, and the lumber industry that developed with the arrival of European settlers. Just why would anyone chop down such a beautiful and rare tree? One man’s rage over the senseless clear-cutting of old-growth forests caused him to go over the edge. Vaillant’s analysis carves deep into the subject. Favorite quote, on the topic of deforestation:  “It is an eccentric and uniquely human approach to resources: like plowing under your farmland to make way for more lawns, or compromising your air quality in exchange for an enormous car.

By Jeremy Morelock