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Bayou, Volume 1, by Jeremy Love

Read This! - Fri, 2014-06-20 01:01

Laura shares this review:

If you asked people what they think of when they hear the term “American mythos” many would undoubtedly call to mind Cowboys and Indians and other aspects of the Wild West, unaware of the vibrant and complex stories and traditions of Southern Folklore. Bayou is a beautifully-rendered Alice in Wonderland-style fairytale set in Mississippi during the Depression. It is a uniquely Southern world, filled with mud and Spanish moss, concurrently embracing and fighting against the legacy of slavery.

The story centers on Lee, a young black girl, who is friends with Lily, the white daughter of the woman who owns the farm where Lee and her father live. Lily is snatched and swallowed by a monster from the bayou, named Cotton-Eyed Joe, and Lee’s father makes a convenient suspect for the local law officers when she is reported missing by her mother. In an effort to get her friend back, and free her father before he gets lynched, Lee follows the monster into the brackish water, and finds herself in an alternate but parallel world. The inhabitants of this world are human-like, but their physical bodies have been replaced by various characters drawn from Southern myths. She meets Bayou, a swamp dweller who, despite his giant stature, is cowed into submission by the Bossman and his lackeys through their brutal enforcement of the law. Despite his fear, Bayou sees the need and determination of Lee to find her friend Lily and decides to help her, although not without trepidation.

Any story that starts with a lynching and exposes the varied responses of people to such brutality isn’t going to pull punches. But what is most chilling about its narrative is that Bayou doesn’t make the humans into caricatures. The people in the normal world are just that: normal. They are all believable products of their time and environments, and that is clearly reflected in the social interactions between the characters. Young and old, black and white, rich and poor, everyone seems to know who is in power and the potential consequences of any action that might upset the current balance. In the parallel world, characters are taken to their extreme with Jim Crows, Golliwogs, and Confederate officer hounds, but it’s the similarities rather than the differences between the two worlds that are most striking.

Bayou’s injections of race, religion, poverty, and the blues contribute to an important and uniquely Southern voice in fantasy and graphic novels. The storyline and imagery can be disturbing and unsettling, but these aspects give meaning and power to the book’s message. Both written and drawn by Jeremy Love, the use of color enhances the atmosphere, bathing the images in deep gold, dusky pink, and brownish-green. Recommended to readers of fantasy, graphic novels, and southern fiction.

Check the WRL catalog for Bayou


Categories: Read This

Auraria: A Novel, by Tim Westover

Blogging for a Good Book - Thu, 2014-06-19 01:01

Today’s review is by Meghan.

Tim Westover’s Auraria begins with James Holtzclaw, employee of H.E. Shadburn and the Standard Company, travelling out of his familiar urban world and into the mountains of Georgia. His case is stocked with gold, pen and ink, and his notary stamp — this journey is business. The Standard Company deals in land deeds and development. Shadburn’s newest venture: buying up the land in the forgotten gold rush town of Auraria.

There was a real Auraria. It’s now a ghost town near Dahlonega, GA. It was settled in the 1830s and abandoned when the gold ran out. You’re almost tricked (for half a page) into thinking Westover’s book is historical fiction. It’s not.

As he works his way through his list of properties, Holtzclaw struggles to understand what he’s got himself into. The town is full of people who’ve stayed behind, though its heyday is long gone. Those who pan for gold in the mountain streams only find a few flakes, if any. The proprietors of the local hotels seem resigned to slow, local business. But Holtzclaw knows his stuff when it comes to buying land from poor folks. What he doesn’t expect is the strange girl who calls herself a princess. He doesn’t expect glimpses of otherworldly beings in the forest. He doesn’t expect the piano that plays itself, or the impossible house, or the talking turtle, or Mother Fresh Roasted and her chickens.

And yet, Holtzclaw is determined. Thanks to his efforts, the Company is successful — more or less. With some hasty construction and advertisements in the papers, the ghost town is transformed into a Tourist Attraction. Holtzclaw, however, is still ill at ease. The town’s new dam isn’t holding water, and neither are Shadburn’s excuses for his odd behavior and business decisions. As for the Aurarians, are they with him, or against him? What’s the future of their town if the Standard Company’s plans fail? What’s Holtzclaw’s future?

And what is he going to tell the tourists to explain away the next magical rain of fruit?

Westover doesn’t explain the magic. As I read, I felt Auraria was all the more real because of it. Like any small town in the mountains, it’s secluded, it’s old, and everybody takes its oddities for granted. There’s no logic to Princess Tralyhta or Mr. Bad Thing. That’s how it is, in this town.

If you like fast-paced adventure and clear-cut answers, you probably won’t make it past the first page. But if you’re looking for a slow, sweet, surreal fantasy that will put you in mind of small towns and mountains, this is a book you’ll want to take a look at and read.

Check the WRL catalog for Auraria


Hey, Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose, illus. by Debbie Tilley

Pied Piper Pics - Wed, 2014-06-18 01:01

Have you ever been faced with that age old question of whether to squish or not to squish? What if you were just about to lay down the shoe and that poor little bug started talking to you? That’s exactly what happens in Hey, Little Ant when a boy is met by a pleading ant and the two begin a sing-song dialog between them offering different perspectives about how the story should end.

“I can see you’re big and strong,
Decide for yourself what’s right and wrong,
If you were me and I were you,
What would you want me to do?”

The father/daughter team of Phillip and Hannah Hoose bring us a thought provoking narrative that can be used in the classroom when talking about bullying or eco-systems. It’s not only educational, but entertaining, and leaves an open ending that puts the reader in the driver seat!

Check the WRL catalog for Hey, Little Ant.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

The Winner’s Curse, by Marie Rutkoski

Read This! - Wed, 2014-06-18 01:01

Jessica shares this review:

5 pilasters! 6 pilasters! 25 pilasters! (Shouts from the crowd), 1 Keystone, says Kestrel.  12 keystones! 13 keystones! 15 keystones! 25 keystones! (Shouts from the crowd), 50 keystones, says Kestrel. And so it ends. Kestrel, the General’s daughter, has just made a very public display of wealth, desire and in the eyes of those around her in public square, a sizeable mistake. She has participated in her first slave auction (much to her own surprise) and not to the disinterest of those with questionable stares. And she has purchased her first slave…but at an incredibly high and unexpected cost. Why? Because the auctioneer proclaimed the one thing Kestrel could not ignore; the slave could sing. And there is nothing more in the world Kestrel loves than music, even if it’s one of the things her people dislike most about the population they conquered years ago and enslaved. Kestrel is among the upper-most class of the Valorians, a people known for their rough natures, war fighting skills and commitment to conquering the lands and people that lay beyond but within their reach. But she is distinct, she is different. Kestrel doesn’t long for a prestigious military career like her father, or a marriage to another elite society member like her friends. She yearns only for her piano and the ability to play whenever she wants. And so, with the hope of perhaps finding a kindred spirit, she buys Arin, a Herrani slave. But Arin isn’t what she expected and his distant reserve and hard headedness along with a blatant refusal to sing make Kestrel doubt her already questionable decision. And doubt it she should, for Arin has his own secrets and agendas he brings into the General’s home. As things begin to spiral out of control for both Kestrel and Arin it seems they are also realizing they might have a closer connection than either could have dared imagine…and it could mean the end for both of them.

Check the WRL catalog for The Winner’s Curse.


Categories: Read This

The Shift Omnibus, by Hugh Howey

Blogging for a Good Book - Wed, 2014-06-18 01:01

Today’s post is written by Tabor.

Shift, written by Hugh Howey, is the prequel to the dystopian novel Wool and recounts the events that created the Silos or the housing that mankind inhabits after a nuclear fallout. It follows the alternating narratives of Donald, a congressman in the 2050s and Troy, a worker from Silo 1 in the 2110s. Donald Keene is a young congressman who has been tasked to design a “just in case” building by Senator Thurman because of his degree in architecture. Along with this proposition, Donald’s past is dredged up when his ex-girlfriend from college is also assigned to the project. During the course of his chapters, Donald struggles with his marriage, his old flame, and the mysterious nature of the project he has been assigned. In the future, Troy, who works in the same building that Donald designed, is attempting to find out the purpose of the Silos while avoiding authoritative superiors. This is the foundation for the story that unravels until it reaches the time frame of Wool and imparts the notion that mankind should not attempt to prolong their mortality.

Along for the journey is another new character named Mission Jones, whose narrative burdens the reader with an idea of the deception that takes place in the Silos. Other characters that the reader knows also appear, such as Jimmy “Solo” Parker, whose origins are explored, and Juliette, who makes a brief but important appearance in the tale.

Even though this story takes place in a world which is alien to our own, it remains accessible through the characters that inhabit it. Along with creating an original world, Howey is also able to construct the challenges and complexities that come along in this world with a flare of empathy. He is able to create characters that are relatable, undeterred by the fact that they exist centuries after us and face entirely different obstacles than our own present ones. This book is not a sterile and uninviting dystopian novel; though the book offers bleak circumstances, it is the characters who bring warmth to the story. Ultimately, the characters allow the reader to hope that the outcome will not be desolate with their desire to discover the truth and uncover the reason for the existence of the Silos.

In order for a reader to start this particular book, they only need to understand that this is a continuing story and finally that it is dystopian. The only issue with Shift, which is previously encountered with its predecessor, is the inability to give a synopsis without inevitably spoiling the plot and events of the novel. Simply, Wool created the equation whereas Shift exposes the “why” factor of the equation, but what these characters do with this information has yet to be answered. It is a masterfully done book that peels away at the surface slowly until the very end of the story. Even then, the core element of the story is not revealed and encourages the reader to continue the journey along with the characters.

Check the WRL catalog for Shift


My Salinger Year, by Joanna Rakoff

Blogging for a Good Book - Tue, 2014-06-17 01:01

Today’s review is from Mandy.

Author Joanna Rakoff recounts the year she spent working as the assistant to J.D. Salinger’s literary agent in her new memoir, My Salinger Year.

Rakoff’s memoir opens in late 1995, when she decides that she’d rather write her own poetry and not “analyze other people’s poetry.” After making that fateful decision, she leaves her college boyfriend and drops out of her graduate program in London, England, and returns to New York, where she moves in with an aspiring writer named Don. A chance encounter with a friend of a friend at a Christmas party leads to a referral to a local placement agency. Rakoff visits the agency and soon lands an entry-level job as the assistant to a well-established and well-respected literary agent.

She is unfamiliar with the Agency, as she refers to it throughout the book, but she’s quickly enchanted by the peculiar and archaic office atmosphere. At a time when computers, email, and the World Wide Web were becoming ubiquitous, the Agency still relied on Selectric typewriters and Dictaphones, and kept submission records on pink index cards. Rakoff’s early assignments are unremarkable, consisting mainly of transcribing her boss’s letters to clients and publishers. Then comes the day when her boss tells her, “We need to talk about Jerry.” Jerry is a special client who fiercely guards his privacy. Joanna’s boss warns her that she will receive calls from students and reporters or producers trying to speak to Jerry or secure the film rights to his work. Joanna is admonished that no matter how persuasive the caller is, she must never give out Jerry’s address or phone number. At first, Joanna thinks that “Jerry” is the comedian Jerry Seinfeld, but on her way out of her boss’s office she spots a bookshelf containing The Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey, and Nine Stories and realizes that her boss represents the reclusive author J.D. Salinger.

Although Joanna was familiar with Salinger’s work, she had never actually read any of his books. Over the course of her year at the Agency, she not only falls in love with Salinger’s work, she also becomes fascinated by the letters Salinger receives from fans around the world, including a teenage boy from Winston-Salem, N.C., whose letters mimic the narrative voice of Holden Caulfield; a World War II veteran from Nebraska; and a girl whose teacher tells her she’ll raise her failing grade if she writes to J.D. Salinger and receives a response from him.

In addition to handling Salinger’s correspondence, and the occasional phone call from Salinger to her boss, Joanna also becomes involved in a curious chapter of Salinger’s publishing history. In 1996, much to the surprise of his agent, Salinger agreed to let Roger Lathbury, a professor and owner of a small publishing house called Orchises Press, publish his short story Hapworth 16, 1924 as a stand-alone book. Salinger developed an instant rapport with Lathbury, and publication of Hapworth was scheduled for January 1997; however, the deal fell apart as quickly as it came together.

Rakoff’s narrative deftly balances descriptions of the Agency and the publishing world of the late ‘90s with her own experiences as a young adult adjusting to life after college and her first real job. Her longtime friends are getting married and moving out of the city; she’s dealing with the fallout of leaving a secure relationship for one that’s a bit more tumultuous; and she’s also learning about the limits of an entry-level salary once you factor in student loan repayment and credit card bills.

Fast-paced and often poignant, My Salinger Year is an engaging look at first jobs, the publishing industry, and the powerful lure of literature.

Check the WRL catalog for My Salinger Year


The Natural, by Bernard Malamud

Blogging for a Good Book - Mon, 2014-06-16 01:01

This week’s posts are written by staff from the Circulation Services Division.  Today’s review is written by Alan.

The 15 years following the end of World War II are considered by many to be one of baseball’s golden eras. Attendance skyrocketed, great players returned from the war, the leagues were integrated, no other professional sport seriously competed for the affection of sports lovers, and television brought the game into millions of households. This same time brought forth the birth of a new development – the literary novel about baseball. Before, baseball writing consisted of newspaper reports and sports columns, inspirational sports novels for boys, and colorful and entertaining short stories about characters who inhabited baseball land.

The first, and to many still the best, literary novel is The Natural by Bernard Malamud, which appeared in 1952. It was the 38-year-old author’s first published novel. On one level it is the story of the ups and downs of the sensational rookie season of Roy Hobbs, a superb natural athlete, who enters the big leagues at the age of 35. On another level the book is a commentary on the American dream – or more specifically on the dark side of that dream. Roy Hobbs wants to live that dream, but he has failed to obtain it, through a combination of bad luck, bad choices, and an inability to understand how the game of life is played. He has a gargantuan appetite (literally and figuratively) for life, but he does not know how to live it. He is alone within himself, wary and distrustful of others, standoffish, and incapable of true affection – in short, not a people person, a team-mate, not a team player. There is a sort of redemption at the end of the novel when he realizes that he has learned nothing from his past life, and that he has to suffer again. The question left hanging and unanswered is whether he is, indeed, capable of learning from his past and putting his suffering to good use.

In 1984 The Natural was made into a movie starring Robert Redford. The movie emphasized the mythic aspects of baseball at the expense of character development and granted Roy Hobbs the bucolic and idyllic resolution and ending that he wished for in the book but that Malamud denied him on the printed page.

Two other literary novels about baseball worth mentioning appeared just a few years after The Natural. Both were written by Mark Harris – The Southpaw (1953) and Bang the Drum Slowly (1956), which was adapted first for television and then in 1973 for the movies. These books are concerned with the human aspects of the characters that inhabit the pages, not the profounder issues that concerned Malamud.

Check the WRL catalog for The Natural


Book of Colors–Butterfly, Butterfly by Petr Horacek

Pied Piper Pics - Mon, 2014-06-16 01:01

Summer is upon us and it’s time to read some books about bugs! A butterfly book is always a favorite and this one is sure to please your younger listeners. I love it because, not only does it work great as a bug book, but it also fills the bill for a color story time, as well.

On a clear sunny day, Lucy sees a colorful butterfly. She gleefully chases it all around the garden. The next day, when she is unable to spot it again, she discovers a pink worm, a brown spider, a red ladybug, an orange snail, a blue dragonfly, and a yellow bee. But will that radiant butterfly appear again?

The simple text and bold colorful illustrations would be enough to engage those inquisitive toddlers but Petr Horacek also gives us some die cut “peek-a-boo” holes and a huge pop-up butterfly, too! All of these elements together result in a visually pleasing book that enhances early learning experiences.

Check the WRL catalog for Book of Colors–Butterfly, Butterfly.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

Black Butler #1, by Yana Toboso

Read This! - Mon, 2014-06-16 01:01

Lizzy shares this review:

“Just a stone’s throw from London lies the manor house of the illustrious Phantomhive earldom and its master, one Ciel Phantomhive. Earl Phantomhive is a giant in the world of commerce, Queen Victoria’s faithful servant…and a slip of a twelve-year-old boy. Fortunately, his loyal butler, Sebastian, is ever at his side, ready to carry out the young master’s wishes. And whether Sebastian is called to save a dinner party gone awry or probe the dark secrets of London’s underbelly, there apparently is nothing Sebastian cannot do. In fact, one might even say Sebastian is too good to be true…or at least, too good to be human…” – from Amazon

I was surprised to find myself reading Manga since it’s a different style than I’m used to. I gave the Manga a shot after I finished watching the Anime. I wanted to compare the two to see what was so different. The setting in Victorian London is the perfect time period for this story. Along with the era, the mansion one of the main characters, Ciel, lives in is amazing. The characters seem to be very relatable, which is a good thing. If the reader cannot relate to a character the reader tends to lose interest. Although they are relatable they always have a tweak or secret about them that the reader is not told about. The plot is very mysterious since it is only the first book and I look forward to future plot twists.

Check the WRL catalog for Black Butler.


Categories: Read This

Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends, by Shannon Hale

Read This! - Fri, 2014-06-13 01:01

Lizzy shares this review:

I started this book thinking it was going to be childish with no true meaning. It turned out to be more than a parody on fairy tales and spins into an amazing tale. The theme of the book is destiny. The Royals all end up with happily ever after’s, while the Rebels are stuck never living happily. Raven, one of the protagonists, doesn’t want to follow her destiny to become the next evil queen. Throughout the book she tries to change that. I enjoyed this theme because it shows you can change your destiny. The characters seemed a bit predictable but it does add to the humor. The daughter of Snow White, who is the Queen, is a selfish princess. One of the sons of Prince Charming, Daring Charming, thinks very fondly of himself as well. The plot surrounds the thoughts of Apple White and Raven Queen as Raven searches for ways to not become more like her mom. Altogether, it was a great book and I am looking forward to the next one.

Check the WRL catalog for Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends.


Categories: Read This

When Blue Met Egg by Lindsay Ward

Pied Piper Pics - Fri, 2014-06-13 01:01

When I read a story to a group, I sometimes miss the wonderful illustrations that accompany it. This book was no exception. My 6 year old son pointed out to me that the pictures in this book are drawn on graph paper! Something I had not ever noticed!

With her intricate paper cut illustrations, Lindsay Ward creates a whimsical story of two loveable characters, Blue and Egg. One cold winters day, Blue returns to his nest to find Egg. Desperate to help his little lost friend, Blue puts Egg in a bucket and sets off to find his mother. As winter passes and the days get warmer Blue is in for a big surprise when he (and the reader) discover that Egg is not an egg at all.

Take the time to bring in spring with this gem! Great for groups or one on one this heart felt story of friendship is sure to be a long time favorite. But be sure to take the time to savor the illustrations that make this one extra special!

Check the WRL catalog for When Blue Met Egg.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

A Separation (2012)

Blogging for a Good Book - Fri, 2014-06-13 01:01

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi brings us a deliciously complex domestic drama. Set in contemporary Iran, A Separation explores the dissolution of a marriage against the backdrop of a mystery.

Simin is seeking a divorce from her husband Nader because he refuses to leave Iran with her. Nader also won’t allow Simin to take their daughter Termeh out of the country. Nader wants to stay in Iran to take care of his father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. A judge refuses to grant the divorce, and Simin immediately packs up and leaves for her mother’s house. Termeh decides to stay with her father Nader. Simin’s absence from the home leaves Nader with no choice but to hire a daily caretaker for his father for the hours when he, Nader, is away at work. Nader hires Razieh, a financially-strapped married woman with a young daughter and a child on the way. Nader comes home from work one day to discover Razieh gone and his father on the bedroom floor, his wrist tied to his bed. Additionally, some money is missing from a drawer, and Nader believes that Razieh has taken it. When Razieh returns to Nader’s home, tensions erupt and a physical encounter results in Razieh accusing Nader of a crime against her.

So did he or didn’t he commit the crime Razieh accuses him of? In the ensuing legal drama, the characters struggle with questions of morality, informed by societal dictates of religious and gender roles, and what it means to tell the truth. A Separation prompts us to ask: In desperate circumstances, when our backs are up against the proverbial wall, are we more likely to transgress our moral and ethical boundaries?

American viewers unfamiliar with the Iranian justice system will undoubtedly make some interesting comparisons between the American justice system and the Iranian system of justice as depicted in A Separation. Lawyers are non-existent in the film as the accuser, the accused, and witnesses battle it out with each other in front of a judge.

Simply put, A Separation is an extraordinary film, one of the best films I have ever seen. The top-rate performances alone make the film worth viewing. Particular stand-outs include Peyman Moadi as Nader; Sareh Bayat as Razieh; and Kimia Hosseini, who steals every scene she is in, as Somayeh, Razieh’s inquisitive, mischievous, and adorable daughter.

Check the WRL Catalog for A Separation


What the Nanny Saw, by Fiona Neill

Blogging for a Good Book - Thu, 2014-06-12 01:01

Ali Sparrow is a financially-strapped British college student who takes a year off from school to work as a nanny for the Skinners, a wealthy family living in London’s Holland Park. Nick Skinner, the patriarch of the family, is an investment banker. Nick’s wife, Bryony, is the head of her own PR company.

At the beginning of What the Nanny Saw, the Skinners are in the midst of a financial scandal and the paparazzi are camped out in front of the Skinners’ luxurious home. Nick Skinner, alleged to have committed a financial crime, has fled the home in an attempt to shield his wife and children (19-year-old Jake, 17-year-old Izzy, and 7-year-old identical twins Hector and Alfie) from the crush of the media.

Nick’s family members are unsure as to whether he is guilty of the financial crime while Nanny Ali Sparrow may have the answer. We come to discover what Ali knows as we are guided through an extended flashback of Ali’s time working for the Skinners. Our journey begins with the day Ali is hired and Ali’s recollections make up the bulk of the novel.

The promise of finding out what Ali knew with regard to Nick’s possible criminal activities is what initially attracted me to What the Nanny Saw. However, what kept me reading — or in this case, listening to the audiobook — was a story bigger than Nick’s legal troubles.

What the Nanny Saw is a story about a young woman from ordinary and humble circumstances, a young woman who is suddenly thrown into the excessive, over-the-top lives of the extraordinarily wealthy Skinners. Ali Sparrow’s attempts to navigate her way through a world in which she is seen but not seen, a world where she is a part of the family yet outside of the family, comprise the driving narrative of the story.

We sympathize with Ali Sparrow’s discomfort as she imposes Bryony Skinner’s seemingly arbitrary rules on the Skinner children – rules that may prove more harmful than good in the long run. Bryony obsesses over her children’s school grades but fails to see the obvious signs that daughter Izzy is suffering from an eating disorder. Mrs. Skinner’s concerns about outward appearances drives her to insist that twins Hector and Alfie not eat from the same plate or speak their “secret” language lest those outside the family view them as weird and start gossiping about them. Worry about appearances seems to trump any concern for the inner lives of the Skinner children. For a family so drenched in superficialities, much is brimming underneath the surface.

What the Nanny Saw allows us to take sides; however, when we have aligned ourselves with Ali in her plight with the Skinners, a revelation about Ali’s past and the reason she really left school rocks any “goody-goody” image we may have developed of her. That Ali is flawed is one of the great achievements of the novel; it prevents us from seeing Ali as positively boring or bland, especially given some of the more colorful personalities in the book.

Morality and the ways in which we justify certain actions to ourselves is one of the important themes found in What the Nanny Saw. The novel also touches upon a plethora of issues, some of which are given more consideration than others: sex trafficking and sex work, the plight of immigrant nannies, drug use and abuse, class inequities, adultery, and more.

I highly recommend What the Nanny Saw in audiobook form as narrator Allison Larkin fully embodies each character of the novel. Allison Larkin is perhaps the best audiobook narrator I have encountered thus far.

Check the WRL catalog for What the Nanny Saw


Weslandia by Paul Fleischman, illus. by Kevin Hawkes

Pied Piper Pics - Wed, 2014-06-11 01:01

Wesley was an outcast. He had no friends, but plenty of tormentors. Once summer vacation arrived, he needed a project to keep him busy. Putting to use some of the things he learned in school, Wesley decided to build his own civilization which he called WESLANDIA! He planted a garden and with his staple crop he grew tall flowering plants that bore fruit which provided his nourishment. He devised a spinning wheel from the woody bark and wove himself clothing from the plants fibers. Soon, his classmates who once mocked him became interested in the project. Reluctantly, Wesley allowed them to help. Together they discovered games for entertainment. His parents noted an improvement in his morale. Wesley seemed happier and soon, he had no shortage of friends.
Author Paul Fleischman has created this wonderfully thought provoking story about how people fit into the world. Wesley’s character chooses not to accept rejection but to use his individuality to create something wonderful that can bring happiness to everyone. For ages 5-9, this book is perfect for the classroom and appeals to a large audience. It can be used for a variety of themes including Agriculture, Creativity and Imagination, Individuality, and Civilizations. The vocabulary used offers opportunities for students to advance their vocabulary skills by learning the meaning of words like myriad, scornful, tubers, bedlam, innovation, morale, and finale, as they’re used in text.
If this book is not already on your shelf, add it today! You won’t be sorry!

Check the WRL catalog for Weslandia.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson

Read This! - Wed, 2014-06-11 01:01

Melissa shares this review:

I saw this YA novel on a list of books being made into movies – and I decided to read it before the movie rocketed it up the “it” list.

The plot synopsis sounds like the saddest story ever.  Lennie and her sister Bailey were abandoned by their mother when both were quite young.  They live happily with their quirky grandmother and uncle, believing that one day their mom will wander back into their lives.

Lennie is an introvert and band geek who lives in her vibrant sister’s shadow.  She likens herself to the companion pony that walks beside the sleek racehorse to keep it calm before a race. And suddenly Bailey dies.

Lennie thought she was happy walking behind Bailey, letting Bailey make decisions on what to do, and now Lennie is floating through each day without that anchor.

That’s the sad part.  And believe me, you’ll need to keep some tissues handy.  Why put yourself through that?  Because you’ll quickly come to realize Lennie is more than just Bailey’s little sister.  She has to work through her grief – and reconnect with friends – and fall in love – and forgive herself for feeling happy again.  But that discovery is compelling, I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.  Some of it is like watching a train wreck, but it ends in a good place (I promise!).

The coolest thing about this book is the poems and brief memories that Lennie writes on walls, paper cups, homework assignments, books, benches… These memorabilia are described every few chapters, along with where Lennie left them.  How cool would it be to find a piece of someone’s life like this?  It is so much more honest and revealing than “Lennie was here” or other typical graffiti.

The book is certainly worth waiting on a long hold list for — so if you can’t pick it up right away, keep it in mind once you hear the movie hype.

FYI – the movie option was purchased by Selena Gomez’s production company.  The Disney star is set to play the main character, Lennie.

Check the WRL catalog for The Sky is Everywhere


Categories: Read This

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, by Ayana Mathis

Blogging for a Good Book - Wed, 2014-06-11 01:01

Ayana Mathis’s poignant debut novel The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is set against the backdrop of the Great Migration during the 1920s, when African Americans began moving in large numbers from the southern United States to the North. The reasons behind the Great Migration of African Americans to the North were twofold: to escape the racial terror of the Jim Crow South and to pursue the supposed better opportunities in the North.

The titular fifteen-year-old Hattie moves from Georgia to Philadelphia in 1923 with her family. Soon thereafter, young Hattie marries a man named August and gives birth to twins. Hattie then loses her newborns in 1925 when she is just seventeen years of age. Hattie’s tragic loss sets the tone for the rest of the novel.

Following the death of her newborn twins, Hattie gives birth to nine more children, but finds neither the time nor the emotional wherewithal to outwardly express love for them. Hattie feels that it is more prudent to withhold her love so as to prepare her children for a world that will not love them.

The tragic cycle of life continues as Hattie’s children go on to suffer tragedies and hardships of their own, at least in part due to the emotional absence of their mother and the sometimes physical absence of their father. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie prompts us to think about the ways in which our parents affect who we become.

The novel also asks us to consider the effects of the Great Migration on African Americans and the ways in which the promise of a better life in the North became for many, to borrow a phrase from Langston Hughes, a “dream deferred.” For Hattie, the promise of a free and more prosperous North seems to die along with her twins Philadelphia and Jubilee. Hattie struggles with an unfaithful and disappointing husband and finds herself and her family in dire financial straits.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is organized unlike any novel I have read prior in that each chapter focuses on one or more of Hattie’s children (the last chapter focuses on a grandchild), at different points in their lives. Each chapter could stand alone as its own short story and only occasionally will characters reappear in later chapters.

I enjoyed the uniqueness of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie; the various “stories” kept my interest. Admittedly, I found myself wanting to know more about certain characters in the book after their chapters had ended; and I was left questioning what happens to Hattie’s last child Ella after Hattie makes a heart-breaking decision regarding her future.

Hattie’s children include Floyd, a traveling musician with a “wild” lifestyle and a burdensome secret. Six is an angry young man who reluctantly embarks on a preaching tour of sorts after a traumatic childhood accident seems to leave him with some divine gifts. Bell, resentful of her mother’s ways, enacts revenge against Hattie that will leave you shaking your head.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is an important book that explores race, class, gender, sexuality, war, religion, mental illness, addiction, disability, and more. Although full of heaviness and heartbreak, there are moments of hope, humor, and levity that help to break up some of the harder stuff. All in all, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is a satisfying read. I look forward to reading more works from the promising Ayana Mathis.

Check the WRL Catalog for The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is also available as a Gab Bag