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Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, by Lawrence Wright

Blogging for a Good Book - Tue, 2014-12-02 00:01

Talk show monologues, celebrity gossip columns, even South Park episodes are full of jokey references to the quirky beliefs of Scientology and adherents like Tom Cruise and John Travolta. If you’re like I was, you laugh along with these, but don’t really know anything about Scientology. I watched The Master, a film with Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard to try to get some insight. The film piqued my interest, but left me with more questions than answers.

As I learned while reading Lawrence Wright’s excellent Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, my confusion was no accident. Scientology is a slippery subject for at least five reasons. First, it’s not a religion in the traditional sense that many of us assume. In particular, there isn’t much reference to a god or gods in Scientology. Second, terminology within the religion is full of strange jargon that outsiders find hard to decipher. Third, even within the religion, access to beliefs is parceled out to each adherent as they gain different levels in a hierarchy. Fourth, the beliefs of the religion have shifted over time and continue to change. Fifth, and perhaps most central to the book, it’s not easy to leave Scientology, and life can get quite unhappy for those who divulge Scientology’s secrets publicly. Those who protect the religion aren’t above smear campaigns against Scientology’s critics, and there’s an organized campaign to put out favorable disinformation in response. Only the disgruntled are likely to go public, and they aren’t the most reliable sources. Add all of this up, and it’s no wonder that Scientology makes for a distinctly blurry target.

That’s why it’s so important that someone of Lawrence Wright’s stature and thoroughness as a researcher and writer took on the subject. Wright is an award winning journalist and writer whose previous book, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, won the Pulitzer Prize. Wright spent years interacting with former Scientologists and pursuing queries with current adherents to the highest level. He’s not just repeating the gossip of a few disgruntled apostates. Everything in the book is carefully documented with multiple sources and the book was singled out for multiple awards, including a National Book Award nomination.

All of that makes this sound like a dreary tome, but far from that, it’s also a fascinating and highly readable narrative, covering Scientology from its odd beginnings, through years at sea where L. Ron Hubbard traveled on ocean liners, unable to find a country to call home for his religion, even as its beliefs developed in many strange directions. The tale continues into the modern era when celebrity adherents are carefully groomed, lavished with perks, and then kept cautiously in line, and on to David Miscavige, who took leadership in a late 1980s coup against Hubbard’s intended successors and continues to rule his flock with an iron fist.

Along the way Wright catalogs Scientology’s odd collection of beliefs about reincarnation; its battles with psychology, the IRS, and the legal systems of many nations; its extortion of money from believers and extended investment in real estate; and most of all, its cruel treatment of adherents who fall into disfavor with the Church’s leaders and sustained campaign to keep them in the religion’s control. Wright debunks Hubbard’s many lies about his background. He shows how Scientology has extorted money from adherents by forcing them to take expensive classes and even making charges to their credit cards without permission. He documents Miscavige’s physical and emotional abuse of even his highest lieutenants. He reveals the lush treatment given to Tom Cruise, including the way that Scientology helped him procure a new partner after his split with Nicole Kidman. Most horrifically, Wright describes the way in which Scientology has broken the families of members, taken away children, mandated divorces and abortions, and imprisoned, tortured, starved, and brainwashed those singled out for punishment.

For a taste, check out this summary of some of its revelations, but to put yourself fully in the know, check out the book and read it in its entirety.

Check the WRL catalog for Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief

Or listen to Going Clear on audio CD


Cheers for a Dozen Ears: A summer crop of counting by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky, illus. by Susan Swan

Pied Piper Pics - Mon, 2014-12-01 00:01

Susan Swan’s amazing illustrations steal the show in this simple counting book that encourages kids and adults to buy fruits and vegetables from their local farm stands. The vibrant colors will keep young children interested in the basics of counting and eating healthy. All of the fruits and veggies at Watermelon Acres farm stand look so delicious that you might want to have some of your own to munch on as you read! After getting everything on Mom’s list, the kids decide to add one more item. Felicia Sanzari Chernesky writes, “Add a summer sunflower from the jar. Now let’s take this garden to our car! But first, put some money in the can. Farmers work hard to feed this land.”

Check the WRL catalog for Cheers for a Dozen Ears: A summer crop of counting.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

The Falcon’s Malteser, by Anthony Horowitz

Read This! - Mon, 2014-12-01 00:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

Anthony Horowitz may be best known in the book world for his Alex Rider adventures. I, however, first became aware of him through his Diamond Brothers Mystery series. Set in London, the books are narrated by Nick Diamond, kid brother to “detective” Tim Diamond. I put detective in quotes because he is rarely able to actually detect anything. His real name is Herbert Timothy Simple, and he was fired from the police force before becoming a private eye. Although Nick is the younger brother, he is the real brains of the operation.

Their first story is The Falcon’s Malteser, an obvious play on the Maltese Falcon. It is the story of a box of Maltesers, or malted milk balls, that once belonged to a criminal by the name of The Falcon. See what Horowitz did there? The box is left in the care of Tim, but when the man who pays him to look after it turns up dead, Tim is suddenly a suspect. Nick must take over the case to prove Tim’s innocence, protect the box of Maltesers from all of the shady characters after it, and discover why The Falcon prized a box of candy so much. It is an update on a classic noir, with mystery, suspense, and humor.

Check the WRL catalog for The Falcon’s Malteser.


Categories: Read This

Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand

Blogging for a Good Book - Mon, 2014-12-01 00:01

For his combination of physical prowess, braggadocio, mental agility, and artistic flair, one can’t beat Cyrano de Bergerac. Add in the famous nose, with all of its comic exaggeration, and readers are in for a timeless treat.

De Bergerac was a real dramatist and duelist, immortalized (and fictionalized) 240 years after his death in a French play by Edmond Rostand. Those who know the story are most likely to know it from a film: the 1950 classic for which Jose Ferrer won Best Actor; the contemporary retelling Roxanne, which Steve Martin adapted and led in 1988; or the marvelous French film from 1990 featuring Gerard Depardieu. It’s the tale of a man with prodigious talents for dueling and bragging, but also for the facility of his tongue and pen.

Cyrano is in love with Roxane, but she doesn’t know, and makes him promise to aid and befriend the handsome Christian. Loyal to his promise, and embarrassed by his huge nose, Cyrano even goes so far to help the tongue-tied Christian to woo Roxane, figuring that at least he can express his love to her through another. His words succeed, but too well, as Roxane begins to love Christian’s words more deeply than his looks. War intervenes: will Cyrano and Roxane come together? Well, you’ll have to read the story to find that out.

While all three of the movies I mentioned are superb (and the filmed stage performance with Kevin Kline is no slouch either), I recommend reading Cyrano first to appreciate its linguistic force. There are two great adaptations in English. Many prefer the earlier Brian Hooker adaptation, but my favorite is by Anthony Burgess (of A Clockwork Orange fame), who retains the rhyme scheme and emphasizes humor at the play’s opening, drama at the finish.

Skim to one of the spots where Cyrano’s words tumble out in a torrent. Two of the best are in the second act: his list of ways to ridicule his nose and the “no thank you” speech, where he catalogs his reasons for being a soldier instead of a poet. If these sections don’t capture you, check your pulse. This is the ultimate work of bravado, of romance, of panache, a play that every reader should experience once for its exuberant joy and then again whenever a little encouragement is needed.

Check the WRL catalog for Cyrano de Bergerac


Tarnish, by Katherine Longshore

Blogging for a Good Book - Fri, 2014-11-28 00:01

Spoilers for the 1500s: there’s no happy ending to this romance. But it has drawing power anyway.

This young adult historical romance is set in 1523-24, embroidering on what little is known about young Anne Boleyn, before she ever caught the eye of Henry, King of England. Recently returned to the English court after years abroad, she is an outsider with the wrong looks and clothes, standing out for her French manners and fashion just in time for war with France, oops. Her tyrannical father is pushing her marriage to a boorish Irishman (actually, historically nicknamed James the Lame), and Anne is desperate for another choice.

Thomas Wyatt, playboy poet and professional flirt, offers to take on the project—for a wager—of elevating Anne’s social profile. With his savvy advice and very public attention, he can remake her into a centerpiece of the court. Only young Anne is never quite sure whether they are playacting. And even with her newfound status, nothing is simpler. Everyone who’s enamored is already married, or out of her social league… or the King of England. Who is, of course, sleeping with Anne’s sister.

Langshore writes a determined but vulnerable Anne who doesn’t have many options and hasn’t yet settled on a path of action. Her ambitions, her desire to be heard, her dysfunctional family, and, yes, her schoolgirl crushes are all very relatable, which is probably why her story has been retold so many times.

Tarnish is the middle book of three that are set in the Tudor court, but they don’t have to be read in order. Gilt tells the story of Catherine Howard, number five among Henry’s queens, and Brazen centers around Mary Howard, who married Henry’s illegitimate son.

Check the WRL catalog for Tarnish.


Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis

Pied Piper Pics - Fri, 2014-11-28 00:01

This imaginative little book highlights the contrast between what adults and children see by alternating between the perspectives of an adult looking on and a little pig with a stick and a powerful imagination. Every other right-hand page pictures the pig holding a stick opposite an adult injunction: “Hey, be careful with that stick.” The rest show him as he sees himself, holding a fishing pole, baton, paintbrush, etc., opposite his increasingly insistent “It’s not a stick.” Although the line drawing illustrations are extremely spare, the layout, with solid-color left-hand pages, gives the book a stylish look. It recalls the classic Harold and the Purple Crayon. This title will pair well with Lily Brown’s Paintings, another book about an imaginative child. Not a Stick is perfect for a preschool storytime for a small audience. It will be most enjoyed by children ages three to five. The author and illustrator, Antoinette Portis also produced Not a Box.

Check the WRL catalog for Not a Stick.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

100 Cupboards, by N. D. Wilson

Read This! - Fri, 2014-11-28 00:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

As my fellow youth services librarians will attest, I am a pretty organized person. You know the old adage, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” That’s me. That is perhaps what initially drew me to a book called 100 Cupboards. I would love to have a wall covered with 100 cupboards, as that would mean 100 places in which I could compartmentalize things! The book’s cover, depicting a few of the 100 compartments, cupboards, drawers, and cabinets that line one attic wall, is certainly eye catching, as well.

For those less interested in organization, the second best thing about the book is that each cupboard leads to a different place, different time, or different reality. As you can imagine, this could easily lead a young boy to adventure. The boy’s name is Henry York, and he has just come to live with his aunt, uncle, and three female cousins after his parents were taken hostage in Colombia, South America. Hey, it could happen.

In his attic bedroom, Henry discovers the aforementioned wall of cupboards hidden behind a wall of plaster. After removing all of the plaster, and making quite a mess, he begins to explore the cupboards and where they lead. The cupboards are controlled by two knobs in the center of the wall, which work like compasses. The doors will open according to the direction the knobs are facing. And that is just the beginning. There is also a door in the house that is locked, and cannot be opened by anything, including a chain saw. There are the letters which come through one of the cabinets, which is really a small post box. And there is the numbered diagram in the front of the book, depicting all of the cupboards with notes regarding where and to when they lead. There are still so many cupboards to explore! You’ll be anxious for more by the book’s end, so be sure to check out the sequel, Dandelion Fire.

Check the WRL catalog for 100 Cupboards.


Categories: Read This

The Suffragette Scandal, by Courtney Milan

Blogging for a Good Book - Thu, 2014-11-27 00:01

“Suffragette,” she said, “is pronounced with an exclamation point at the end. Like this: ‘Huzzah! Suffragettes!'”

Miss Frederica “Free” Marshall is a suffragette, which, as she points out, is pronounced with an exclamation point. An investigative reporter for her own Women’s Free Press, she campaigns for the vote while fighting accusations of plagiarism, threats of arrest, and attempts to burn her home and business.

Edward Clark doesn’t really do exclamation points. After a harrowing experience abroad during the Franco-Prussian war, he’s a realist with a particularly dark view of reality. While he doesn’t have any problem with Free’s lady-empowering views, he doesn’t understand why she devotes time and passion to a cause so unwinnable, so much like “emptying the Thames with a thimble.”

Also, Clark is secretly Edward Delacey, Viscount Claridge, whom everyone knows to be missing in the Siege of Strasbourg and believes to be dead. (Yes, it’s a “Surprise! A lord!” romance!) Being a viscount is something else Edward doesn’t have any patience with, so he’s reinvented himself as a metalsmith, a forger, and an all-around scoundrel. Sharing a mutual enemy, Edward and Free engage in bouts of flirtation via blackmail and reverse blackmail.

This is a surprisingly lighthearted and joyful book, skating very lightly over the history of struggle and suffering that inspires it—wartime firebombings and the investigative exploits of women like Nellie Bly and Josephine Butler. Milan, in her author’s note, actually calls it “as much an alternate history as it is a historical romance.” Great women characters have been true of every one of Courtney Milan’s books I’ve read, but with a suffragette main character, this is unsurprisingly the most overtly feminist of her romances. The “huzzah” moment in this book isn’t even to do with the romance, it’s Free’s rousing explanation of just what she’s trying to do with her thimble and the Thames.

Check the WRL catalog for the ebook of The Suffragette Scandal


Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney

Read This! - Wed, 2014-11-26 00:01

Jessica shares this review:

Greg Heffley is being forced by his mother to keep a journal (“but if she thinks I’m going to write down my ‘feelings’ in here or whatever, she’s crazy”). Except we really probably ought to call it a diary, since that’s what it says on the cover, despite Greg’s instructions to his mother (“when Mom went out to buy this thing I SPECIFICALLY told her to get one that didn’t say ‘diary’ on it”).

Since Greg is a sixth grader, he writes a lot about his classes and his friends and his activities in school. He’s not one of the jocks or the cool kids (“the best I can figure is that I’m somewhere around 52nd or 53rd most popular this year”) but he’s high enough on the social hierarchy that he feels comfortable running for Class Treasurer. He would have had a shot at it, too, except that the principal made him take down his campaign posters against his opponent.

“Remember in second grade how Marty Porter had head lice?” asks one of the posters. “Do you really want him touching YOUR money?” In the middle of the words is a picture of Marty vigorously scratching his head.

It’s the pictures that make the book so good. I really like Greg’s diary writing—he says a lot of funny things—but his pictures are just hysterical. There’s at least one drawing on practically every page. The artwork is more sophisticated than stick-figure drawings, but only barely, which is probably why I like it so much.

My colleagues over in Youth Services inform me that the Wimpy Kid series is really popular with young men and I understand why—the hero is someone you can relate to, and it’s funny while still being realistic—but I’d like to encourage people outside the demographic to give it a chance. I am a female who hasn’t been in the sixth grade for a long time, but I’m racing through the books. Give this a try even if you aren’t a sixth-grade boy.

Check the WRL catalog for Diary of a Wimpy Kid


Categories: Read This

Babies Can’t Eat Kimchee by Nancy Patz, illus. by Susan L. Roth

Pied Piper Pics - Wed, 2014-11-26 00:01

In this charming book about having a new baby in the family, a new big sister, frustrated with the baby’s limitations, dreams of everything she’ll do with her baby when she’s big enough. She plans to teach the baby important things like how to walk, how to look both ways at the corner, and how to lick up ice cream drips. She imagines singing songs with the baby. Getting carried away she asks, “Baby, do you want me to teach you a song?” The following double-page spread makes the baby’s displeasure abundantly clear: strips of brightly colored paper shoot violently over the page. On one side is a small drawing of the baby with a wide-open mouth, dwarfed by the volume of her screams. The illustrations are done in collage, ink, and oil pastels with riotous color and texture on every page. This book is perfect for a preschool storytime on siblings or new babies. There are many great books on these themes; two are Katy Duck: Big Sister and Yum Yum, Baby Bundt. The author, Nancy Patz, is also an artist. Her paintings have been shown at the Baltimore Museum of Art, among other places. Illustrator Susan L. Roth has illustrated many books of Native American folk tales.

Check the WRL catalog for Babies Can’t Eat Kimchee.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

The Judgment of Paris, by Ross King

Blogging for a Good Book - Wed, 2014-11-26 00:01

I’ve been enjoying this rambling tour of the Paris art world in the 1860s and ’70s, when the established traditions of great painting were under siege, and newcomers wielding their paintbrushes like floor mops were revolutionizing, or possibly just ruining, French Art.

It’s organized loosely around the careers of two painters, figureheads of the opposing schools. Ernest Meissonier paints musketeers and subjects from history, in moments that impart a moral lesson. Edouard Manet depicts absinthe drinkers and prostitutes, a contemporary crowd in modern dress (or inexplicably nude while picnicking). Meissonier, passionate about historical accuracy, collects period dress and weaponry to create military re-enactments on canvas, laboriously layered with great detail and rewarding examination with a magnifying glass. Manet, if his critics are to be believed, slops the paint (or coal dust) on with a floor mop, approximating a scene without finishing it. Are first impressions good enough? They are for the painters who are not yet called the Impressionists, a disgruntled but passionate lot of struggling artists who are repeatedly rejected from the Paris Salon or whose paintings are “skyed,” hung so high on exhibition walls that no one can see them.

Call me old-fashioned, but I have to side with Meissonier, who is described as one of the best-selling painters you’ve never heard of. You have to respect an artist who, after his scale model of a battlefield is ravaged by mice, recreates it in full size in his yard, dragging heavy carts around to furrow the ground and strewing bags of flour about to simulate a snowy landscape. (Fortunately, he resembles Napoleon enough to model for his own paintings.) He has the local cavalry charge about on maneuvers so that he can get a better idea of how to paint horses in motion. And here comes a generation that paints wisps of colors and calls it an “impression”!

Well, history and auction prices have come down on the side of the Impressionists. But King immerses you in their controversies with great relish, including the politics of the Salon de Paris, the juried exhibition that could make or break a painter’s career. Such passions! Paintings are assaulted with walking sticks, styles are derided with great energy and imagination in the (censored) press. “This is the painting of democrats,” writes a Salon director about the new style, “of men who don’t change their underwear.” There are fisticuffs over newspaper reviews! Duels are fought!

A wealth of anecdotes, mingling history, art history, and biography, cover a lot of ground but not very deeply. This is the kind of book that adds to your to-be-read pile with tantalizing references to people and subjects you now need to know more about. Or you could go from here to Christopher Moore’s irreverent but wildly enthusiastic novel of the same time period, Sacre Bleu.

Check the WRL catalog for The Judgment of Paris.

WRL also owns the audiobook.


Jackaby, by William Ritter

Blogging for a Good Book - Tue, 2014-11-25 00:01

“You have been in the Ukraine, I perceive.”

In this young adult mystery, Abigail Rook, a young woman recently arrived in New England in 1892, apprentices herself to a detective of the supernatural. Author William Ritter owes a double thanks to the cover artist, for the gorgeously eerie book jacket, and to the publicist who decided to market the book as “Doctor Who meets Sherlock Holmes.”

The character of R. F. Jackaby deliberately evokes Conan Doyle’s detective, if Watson had ever been turned into a duck. (Jackaby’s previous assistant is “temporarily waterfowl.”) Aloof, inscrutable, and garbed like an eccentric in a wild hat and scarf, Jackaby sweeps around the city of New Fiddleham dealing with the domovyk, kobold, or pixies that the police force overlook. The police may not be fond of him, but his esoteric skills and bottomless pockets full of tuning forks and gizmos for spying the unworldly make him an invaluable asset when a serial murderer preying on the city seems to be not a man, but a monster.

Narrator Abigail is resourceful, a paleontologist’s daughter who took off to see more of the world than her staid English upbringing could show her. She quickly adjusts to sharing her living quarters with a ghost, not to mention to encounters with bridge trolls and a perfectly chilling banshee. Like any good Watson, she grounds her employer in the mundane world, noticing the overlooked details and trying to be as helpful as one can be when one’s boss is dogged by unsettling paranormal occurrences and doesn’t know how to give a straight answer to a question:

“How many people have you got living here?….”

“Well… that depends on your definition of people… and also of living.”

I’m honestly not sure why the novel is set in America, as its inspirations are so very British, and the humor has a decidedly English twist, a reined-in Douglas Adams voice: “Across town, Mr. Henderson–the man who had heard the banshee’s silent scream—spent the evening dying. To be more accurate, he spent a very brief portion of the evening dying, and the rest of it being dead.”

Quirky and occasionally touching, this is a promising start to a series with spooks and derring-do that should appeal to fans of Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood and Company.

Check the WRL catalog for Jackaby.


The Gods of Gotham, by Lyndsay Faye

Blogging for a Good Book - Mon, 2014-11-24 00:01

“Never have I seen a deadlier-looking collection of firemen, street brawlers, Party thugs, and fighting entrepreneurs in my life…. If you were loyal to the Party or maybe even a good watchman, you could wear a copper star. If you looked like you’ve killed a man with your bare hands and aren’t shy about doing it again, you could be a captain.”

It’s 1845. A blight on potatoes is sending wave after wave of destitute Irish through Ellis Island. Anti-Irish and anti-Catholic feeling run high on the streets of New York, and political debate, as often as not, takes place between mobs armed with lead cudgels. Nominated for a 2013 Edgar award, Faye’s entertaining crime novel is set at the genesis of the NYC police force, a motley crew of ruffians and Democrats nicknamed the Copper Stars.

New Yorkers are not enamored of the baby police force, decrying it as a “standing army” and an infringement of their native liberties. And barkeeper Timothy Wilde has no desire to fight crime or support the political party in which his older brother, Valentine, is such a rising star. But when an explosion wipes out his home and his livelihood, his brother pulls party strings to get Timothy a job as a Copper Star in the crime- and rat-infested Sixth Ward. Only a few days into his rounds, Timothy is involved in a foul case of murder and debauchery: he’s sheltering a ten-year-old runaway from a brothel, who won’t tell him how she came to be covered in blood. And the murder of a second child, blamed on an Irish madman, could be a lit match set to the tinder of NYC.

Faye’s first novel, Dust and Shadow, was one of many in which Sherlock Holmes confronts Jack the Ripper, and in some ways this reads like the same story on a different continent. Mutilated bodies, missing spleens, mad letters signed dramatically, “the Hand of the God of Gotham…” Wilde even has a crew of newsboys reporting to him, his own New York City “Irregulars.” Author Faye is enamored of her setting and its language, loading the story with vivid metaphors and slang straight out of a period lexicon compiled by George Washington Matsell, the city’s first police commissioner.

If bringing evildoers to justice is the main narrative thrust of the novel, its secondary theme is “Damn you, Valentine Wilde.” Val, the older and less responsible brother, lights up every scene that he stumbles into, whether drunk, hung over, coming down off a morphine high, or holding rehearsals of how to properly stuff a ballot box. A childhood’s worth of rivalry and resentment, plus the ability of any sibling to know exactly which button to push, makes the brothers’ relationship a suspenseful and entertaining crime scene of its own.

I listened to both Gods of Gotham and the sequel, Seven for a Secret, on audiobook, and they were fantastic picks for a long commute. Reader Steven Boyer conveys Wilde’s narration with wry flair and creates engaging voices for the other characters as well. There was only one drawback to listening, rather than reading: each chapter is prefaced by a quote from some anti-Irish writings of the period, and every single time the text mentioned the evils of Popery, I had a moment of confusion. Potpourri? Evil?

Check the WRL catalog for The Gods of Gotham.


Distant Waves: a Novel of the Titanic, by Suzanne Weyn

Read This! - Mon, 2014-11-24 00:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

While you seldom come across a book that has something for everyone, Distant Waves: a Novel of the Titanic truly does. It has history, philosophy, and science, suspense, romance, and action, all mixed in with elements of the supernatural. It is the story of five sisters, born to a mother who makes her living as a medium, despite the fact that she may or may not actually be psychic. The story begins in New York City, where the girls are trying to make do following the death of their father. On the advice of one of their mother’s clients, the family decides to relocate to Spirit Vale, New York which is a spiritualist haven modeled after the town of Lily Dale. Before they can leave town, however, they have a fateful interaction with scientist Nikola Tesla. The girls are swept up in the wake of Tesla’s new earthquake vibration machine, which he is testing for the first time. This will not be the last time they meet Tesla, and his theories shape many aspects of their lives.

Our main character, Jane, is particularly influenced by her interaction with Tesla. She follows his work throughout the next decade, and becomes something of a fan. His work in the realm of science influences her beliefs in the supernatural, with particular regard to her doubt of her mother’s psychic talents. While Jane does not wish to be suspicious of her mother’s behavior, she is nevertheless skeptical that one can communicate with the dead. In a community like Spirit Vale, this is not a particularly popular opinion, so most of her struggle is shared only with us, the readers. Her uncertainty is compounded by the fact that Jane’s twin sisters, Emma and Amelie seem to possess genuine psychic abilities. They have been channeling, going into trances, and sleepwalking themselves into dangerous situations, such as onto the roof, or into the ocean. The twins become strangely averse to the ocean, and the idea of sea travel in particular.

When a secret is uncovered about her sister Mimi’s parentage, Jane and Mimi impulsively travel back to New York City, whereupon another fateful meeting takes place. Jane reconnects with Tesla, and meets his attractive young assistant Thad, while Mimi meets Benjamin Guggenheim and befriends his mistress, Ninette. Ninette sweeps Mimi off to Europe as her traveling companion, and introduces her to Victor, Guggenheim’s handsome valet. Events are set into motion which, at this point, you may have guessed, particularly if you are aware of the fact that Guggenheim, Ninette, and Victor were all passengers on the RMS Titanic. Through the course of the story all five sisters also find themselves on board the maiden voyage of the doomed ship.

Distant Waves: a Novel of the Titanic is entertaining, particularly if you have an interest in the turn of the century. Many historical figures of the era make cameo appearances, from the Astors, to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, from W. T. Stead to Harry Houdini. Suzanne Weyn makes us care about these five sisters, and tension builds as the Titanic’s journey comes to its inevitable end. I was pleased to find that only a small portion of the story takes place aboard the Titanic, and emphasis is definitely placed on Jane and her sisters, rather than the story we all know.

Check the WRL catalog for Distant Waves: a Novel of the Titanic


Categories: Read This

Slugs in Love by Susan Pearson, illus. by Kevin O’Malley

Pied Piper Pics - Mon, 2014-11-24 00:01

Marylou is a lovesick slug. Love poems for Herbie, the object of her affection, fill her mind day and night. Although she’s too shy to talk to him in person, she begins writing her poems in slime where Herbie will be sure to see them. Herbie, intrigued, responds in kind, but his poems keep vanishing before Marylou can find them. When they finally meet, their first words to each other are also in rhyme. The illustrations, done in marker and colored pencil and enhanced in Photoshop, add to the slugs’ vibrant personalities. Though they all look essentially the same (a source of confusion for Herbie, who doesn’t know what Marylou looks like), they can be identified by their jaunty headgear. Marylou wears bows around her eyestocks, Herbie wears a baseball cap, and various other slugs wear fedoras, kerchiefs, etc. This book is perfect for a Kindergarten storytime, and will be enjoyed especially by kids aged four to eight. Listeners will delight in the gross-out quality of the slimy slugs and laugh at the clever poetry. The author, Susan Pearson, grew up in part in Newport News. Illustrator Kevin O’Malley also illustrated the Miss Malarkey series. Readers who like Slugs in Love will also enjoy another funny book about leaving notes, Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type.

Check the WRL catalog for Slugs in Love.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place, by E. L. Konigsburg

Read This! - Fri, 2014-11-21 00:01

 

Charlotte shares this review:

I’ve literally grown up—grown older, anyway—with E.L. Konigsburg. We share a love of artists and beautiful things. Mine might have started, in fact, with From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the Newbery award winner that made me, and a generation of readers, want to run away and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Every once in a while, I rediscover how much I love Konigsburg’s deceptively simple prose, the sharply-observed details, the way her nonconformist characters manage to rebel and resist without ever being rude.

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place is about art and rules and civil disobedience, whether you’re up against a homeowners’ association or a clique of bossy 12-year-old girls at summer camp. Margaret Rose Kane, rescued by her uncles from a miserable camp experience, arrives at their home just in time to witness the end of an era. For 45 years, while their neighborhood has grown and changed, Margaret’s Old World Hungarian uncles have been adding on to their backyard Towers—pipe scaffolding, painted in sherbet colors and hung with pendants of colored glass. Depending on how you look at them, the Towers are a work of art, a labor of love, a neighborhood landmark… or an eyesore, a hazard, a threat to property values. (Margaret looks at them from the inside: If you stand in the center and spin, it’s like being inside a kaleidoscope.)

By the time Margaret arrives, her uncles have already fought City Hall and lost. Zoning ordinances dictate that the structures have to come down. But Margaret, having just retreated from one battlefield, isn’t willing to give ground a second time. She starts her own campaign to save the Towers. (Being a Konigsburg child, she arms herself by conducting research, marching to City Hall herself, and requesting a copy of the relevant city council records.)

Konigsburg characters, as a rule, are grammar obsessed and word-curious. Among other things, Outcasts contains one of my all-time favorite puns, when Margaret and her uncle decide that she has not been precisely “disobedient” at camp, but rather “anobedient:”

“…which would mean without obedience—which is not the same thing as disobedience. I would say that anobedience is related to words like anesthetic, which means without feeling.”
“Or anonymous, which means without a name.”
“Or anorexia, without an appetite or anemia, without blood.”
“Or Anne Boleyn, without a head.”

Check the WRL catalog for The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place.

Or try the audiobook.


Categories: Read This

The Grudge Keeper by Mara Rockliff, illus. by Eliza Wheeler

Pied Piper Pics - Fri, 2014-11-21 00:01

Cornelius, the Grudge Keeper, has a busy job. He receives complaints from all the town people – all their fights and squabbles, all their grudges and grumbles. He carefully files each one away in its proper place, so no one else in town has to keep a grudge.
But one day, a small breeze comes into town. This breeze grows and grows until finally it turns into a gale-force wind, which invades Cornelius’ house and sends the grudges about in a flurry. When the townspeople come to file their new grudges, they find their old ones all out of order! Suddenly, they wonder how important these grudges were in the first place.
But what will happen to Cornelius when no one has anything left to complain about?
This book is perfect for older children. There are plenty of big words that they may need to look up, so keep a dictionary close-by.

Check the WRL catalog for The Grudge Keeper.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

Enchanted, by Alethea Kontis

Blogging for a Good Book - Fri, 2014-11-21 00:01

I’ll end the week with an entertaining retelling of the Frog Prince fairytale.

You know the story, right? A lovely girl befriends a frog.  She kisses the frog; he turns into a prince; and they all live happily ever after.

Not in this version. Yes, the beautiful and smart girl, Sunday Woodcutter, meets a talking frog by a pond in the woods.  They become friends.  And yes, she kisses him to see what would happen.  Hours later, when the frog finally turns into a man, Rumbold realizes he is the one person Sunday would never want to see again.  He is the Crown Prince of Arilland, the man responsible for her beloved brother’s death.

Prince Rumbold can’t stop thinking about Sunday, though.  He decides to hold three balls and invite all the women in the country to attend so he has a chance to woo Sunday as a man.  But the balls don’t go exactly as planned.  Spells and secrets need to be revealed before the story can end in the expected happily ever after.

The author cleverly weaves glimpses of other fairy tales throughout the book–one sister has a story similar to Cinderella, another tragically dies from magical dancing shoes, her brother trades a cow for some beans, and there is a giant–it was worth turning the pages just to see who would turn up next and how the “real” story would unfold.

Kontis has written a second in the Woodcutter sisters series, Hero, about the adventures of Saturday.  I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next in this delightful, magical world.

Check the WRL catalog for Enchanted


The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate

Blogging for a Good Book - Thu, 2014-11-20 00:02

Laura and I have been exploring different types of heroes this week.  Today’s selection features Ivan, a silverback gorilla.

I saw a new book in the library the other day – Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate.  While flipping through the colorful picture book, I was reminded of how much I had enjoyed Applegate’s Newberry winner, The One and Only Ivan.

Ivan is one of the animal attractions at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade.  In fact, he is one of the featured attractions on the billboard that he can see outside the window of his small enclosure.  He spends his time watching TV; talking with his friends Bob, a stray dog, and Stella, an older elephant; and painting pictures.  Ivan chooses not to remember what life was like prior to coming to the shopping mall.

When the shopping mall owner buys a younger elephant to bring excitement – and more paying customers – to the Big Top Show, Ivan makes a promise to Stella to help Ruby find a safe place to grow up. That promise leads Ivan to remember what it was like before he was caught and put in the cage.  That promise leads Ivan to figure out a creative way to send a message to the Julia and George, the humans he trusts.  That promise leads not only to Ruby finding a good home in a zoo, but Ivan finding a home with other gorillas and lots of open sky.

The story is told in simple sentences through the unique perspective of Ivan.  Of course, the story is the author’s imaging of what Ivan was thinking and going through, but I forgot that part as I rooted for Ivan’s friends to understand what he was trying to say.

Publisher’s Weekly recommends the title for ages 8-12. But I think it was well worth taking an hour or so to read the story. It is also available as an audiobook, well-read by Adam Grupper, if you would prefer that format.

Check the WRL catalog for The One and Only Ivan

Check the WRL catalog for the audiobook for The One and Only Ivan


Try It, You’ll Like It! by Marc Brown

Pied Piper Pics - Wed, 2014-11-19 00:01

Marc Brown’s Try it, You’ll Like It! is a book in the Arthur’s Family Values series.
Everyone is preparing for a summer luau, but D.W. does not want to try anything new. She won’t try new food, she won’t learn a new dance, she won’t even wear a new color! D.W. does not want to look silly.
The day of the luau comes, and everyone is having fun. D.W. isn’t even wearing a Hawaiian shirt, though. Soon she feels left out. Will she give in and try something new?
This is a great book that continues the adventures of Arthur and D.W. from the television series. It can teach children that they may miss out on fun if they are picky or afraid to try new things. At the end of the book D.W. has learned a lesson and she is now more adventurous than anyone else!

Check the WRL catalog for Try It, You’ll Like It!


Categories: Pied Piper Pics