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Five Book Friday!

And today we honor the life, work, and legacy of Andrea Levy, who, it was announced today, has passed away at the age of 62.

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Andrea Levy, via The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/feb/15/andrea-levy-obituary

Levy was born in 1956 to Jamaican parents who had traveled to England as part of a generation of postwar migrants.  They arrived in the UK on the Empire Windrush, the ship that brought one of the first groups of West Indian migrants to the UK in 1948.

Levy did not start writing until she was in her mid-30s, after enrolling in a creative writing class at an adult education college in London.  There were precious few books about Jamaican immigrants at the time, and in telling the story of her family and her heritage, Levy provided a voice for the thousands of immigrants who made their lives in Britain following the Second World War.

Levy was best known for Small Island, a beautiful and lyrical novel about two Jamaicans immigrants who immigrate to Britain, much like Levy’s own parents did.  Her last novel, The Long Song, was published in 2010, and dealt with the history and legacy of slavery in Jamaica, stretching from the 19th century to the present.  It was nominated for the Man Booker Prize.  Her final work was the 2014 release Six Stories and an Essay, a collection of short stories and essays compiled over a lifetime of work about her career and her Caribbean heritage.

The Guardian published a moving tribute to Levy, her work, and her significance as a British and Jamaican author.  We are honored to share it with you today, and to celebrate the live of such a strong, remarkable storyteller.

And in that spirit, we’d like to introduce you to a few of the titles that slogged through this week’s weird winter weather to make your acquaintance:

Death is Hard Work: Syrian writer Khaled Khalifa continues to reside in Damacus, despite the constant threat of physical harm and trauma caused by the ongoing violence across the country.  As a result, this work provides a searing, honest, first-hand account of modern life in a world destroyed by war, and the way it shapes the lives of three otherwise ordinary people.  Abdel Latif, an old man from the Aleppo region, dies peacefully in a hospital bed in Damascus. His final wish, conveyed to his youngest son, Bolbol, is to be buried in the family plot in their ancestral village of Anabiya. Though Abdel was hardly an ideal father, and though Bolbol is estranged from his siblings, this conscientious son persuades his older brother Hussein and his sister Fatima to accompany him and the body to Anabiya, which is―after all―only a two-hour drive from Damascus.  With the landscape of their childhood now a labyrinth of competing armies whose actions are at once arbitrary and lethal, the siblings’ decision to set aside their differences and honor their father’s request quickly balloons from a minor commitment into an epic and life-threatening quest. Syria, however, is no longer a place for heroes, and the decisions the family must make along the way―as they find themselves captured and recaptured, interrogated, imprisoned, and bombed―will prove to have enormous consequences for all of them.  This is a novel that shows the power of fiction to speak truth to power, and has earned glowing reviews from outlets around the world.  Kirkus gave it a starred review, calling it an “Insistent, memorable portrait of the small indignities and large horrors of the civil war in Syria . . . a skillfully constructed epic that packs a tremendous amount of hard-won knowledge into its pages.”

Black Leopard Red Wolf: Marlon James’ Booker Award came as something of a surprise in 2015–but only to those who had not before encountered his magical way with words and stories.  This novel is the opening of a trilogy that utilizes the tools of African legend, mythology, fantasy and historical fiction together to create a magical new world. Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: “He has a nose,” people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard. As Tracker follows the boy’s scent–from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers–he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?  This is a work that is as entertaining as it is searching and profound, and the reviews are all inspired and elated.  The New York Times provided one of many, cheering,  “Marlon James is one of those novelists who aren’t afraid to give a performance, to change the states of language from viscous to gushing to grand, to get all the way inside the people he’s created…Not only does this book come with a hefty cast of characters (like Seven Killings), there are also shape shifters, fairies, trolls, and, apparently, a map. The map might be handy. But it might be the opposite of why you come to James—to get lost in him.”

Still in Love: Readers of Michael Downing’s Perfect Agreement will recognize the characters in this follow-up novel, but there is plenty here to keep new comers spellbound, as well.  Mark Sternum is a veteran teacher. Twenty years older than when we first met him, separated for six months from his longtime lover, and desperate to duck the overtures of double-dealing deans above him and disgruntled adjunct faculty below him, Mark has one ambition every day he is on campus―to close the classroom door and leave the world behind. His escape, however, is complicated by his contentious, complicated wrestling match of a relationship with the Professor, the tenured faculty member with whom Mark has co-taught this creative-writing workshop for ten years. Their exchanges and interactions create the foundation of this of one semester in a college classroom. And it is an urgent reminder that we desperately need classrooms, that those singular, sealed-off-from-the-world sanctuaries are where we learn to love our lives. Publisher’s Weekly noted in their review that “Downing’s witty follow-up …satisfyingly transports readers to college as teacher Mark Sternum begins winter term at Hellman College in New England . . . In depicting Mark’s ordinary semester, Downing poignantly illustrates the dynamics of the college classroom as well as its potential for lasting lessons, making for a resonant campus novel.”

Early Riser: Jasper Fforde has a way with words–and with reality.  By foregoing all the traditional rules of science fiction, he has created a novel set in an alternative Wales that is as funny as it is unsettling.  Every Winter, the human population hibernates.  During those bitterly cold four months, the nation is a snow-draped landscape of desolate loneliness, devoid of human activity.  Well, not quite…Your name is Charlie Worthing and it’s your first season with the Winter Consuls, the committed but mildly unhinged group of misfits who are responsible for ensuring the hibernatory safe passage of the sleeping masses. You are investigating an outbreak of viral dreams which you dismiss as nonsense; nothing more than a quirky artefact borne of the sleeping mind. When the dreams start to kill people, it’s unsettling. When you get the dreams too, it’s weird. When they start to come true, you begin to doubt your sanity.  But teasing truth from the Winter is never easy, and the adventures you encounter on your way will make your nightmares look like child’s play.  Library Journal loved this book, describing its “Veiled commentary on corporate greed, sleep and dreaming, and twisted popular culture highlight why Fforde, perhaps best known for his “Thursday Next” series, is on par with authors such as Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams.”

The Current: Tim Johnston is a marvel at creating characters and natural settings, and this work shows him at his literary best.  In the dead of winter, outside a small Minnesota town, state troopers pull two young women and their car from the icy Black Root River. One is found downriver, drowned, while the other is found at the scenehalf frozen but alive. What happened was no accident, and news of the crime awakens the community’s memories of another young woman who lost her life in the same river ten years earlier, and whose killer may still live among them. Determined to find answers, the surviving young woman soon realizes that she’s connected to the earlier unsolved case by more than just a river, and the deeper she plunges into her own investigation, the closer she comes to dangerous truths, and to the violence that simmers just below the surface of her hometown. Fast-paced, cleverly-plotted, and gripping, this is a work that the Washington Independent Review of Books called “much more than a skillfully constructed, beautifully written whodunit. It’s a subtle and lyrical acclamation of the heart and spirit of small-town America. The Current is not your conventional, frenetically paced page-turner, although it smolders with a brooding, slow-burn tension that nudges the reader forward, catching you up in the lives of the troubled solitaries at the book’s core.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

The Rally Against All That Is Lovey-Dovey

February is in full swing and all the shops have put their Valentine’s products on the shelves and couples are as “couple-y” as ever. I think I’d rather have a good date with a book instead! Not a romantic as well? Would you rather throw candy hearts in the trash than send them to a special someone? Well here’s the book list you anti-valentines have been waiting for. Get ready for the cynical, the silly, and the downright angst!

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill
Powerful stories of dislocation, longing and desire which depict a disenchanted and rebellious urban fringe generation that is groping for human connection. (Or, more simply put, the angst of people-who-wear-black.)

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath’s shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity. Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies.

Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History—without the Fairy-Tale Endings by Linda Rodríguez McRobbie
You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But the lives of real princesses couldn’t be more different.  A fascinating read for history buffs, feminists, and anyone seeking a different kind of bedtime story.

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
On a beach in the Dominican Republic, a doomed relationship flounders. In the heat of a hospital laundry room in New Jersey, a woman does her lover’s washing and thinks about his wife. In Boston, a man buys his love child, his only son, a first baseball bat and glove. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses.

Five Book Friday!

It’s our first FBF of the month, beloved patrons!  And though February may be a short month, there’s still plenty to celebrate!  In addition to the holiday on February 14, there are a few other days that might strike your fancy to celebrate, such as:

February 17: National Random Act of Kindness Day (originally a New Zealand holiday that appears to be spreading)

February 25: National Clam Chowder Day

February 26: National Tell A Fairy Tale Day!

February 28: National Toast Day (as in toasted bread–originally a UK holiday, but, as fans of toast, we are delighted to join the celebration!)

February is also Black History Month.  Stop in and check out our displays and get some recommendations to enrich your reading!

And speaking of books…here are just a few of the titles that trundled their way through this week’s wacky weather to meet you!

The Atlas of Reds and Blues: Some of literature’s most noteworthy books take place within the context of a single day, and Devi S. Lakar’s novel follows in that tradition, setting out a story that unfolds over the course of a single morning.  When a woman―known only as Mother―moves her family from Atlanta to its wealthy suburbs, she discovers that neither the times nor the people have changed since her childhood in a small Southern town. Despite the intervening decades, Mother is met with the same questions: Where are you from? No, where are you really from? The American-born daughter of Bengali immigrants, she finds that her answer―Here―is never enough.  Mother’s simmering anger breaks through one morning, when, during a violent and unfounded police raid on her home, she finally refuses to be complacent. As she lies bleeding from a gunshot wound, her thoughts race from childhood games with her sister and visits to cousins in India, to her time in the newsroom before having her three daughters, to the early days of her relationship with a husband who now spends more time flying business class than at home.   This is a novel that looks at the complexities of the second-generation American experience, what it means to be a woman of color in the workplace, and a sister, a wife, and a mother to daughters in today’s America.  Based on Laskar’s own experience of a raid on her home, this is a searing and important work that earned a starred review from Booklist.  Their review describes it as a work that   “takes place in a morning; it covers a lifetime . . . Not only does Laskar bring her honed skills as a poet and journalist to her pulse-racing first novel about otherness and prejudice, she also draws on her own experience of a shocking raid on her home. Laskar’s bravura drama of one woman pushed to the brink by racism is at once sharply relevant and tragically timeless.”

The Patricide of George Benjamin Hill: Another striking debut about the dark underbelly of the American dream, James Charlesworth’s first novel is told from the perspective of the children of a ‘self-made man’.  All their lives, the children of George Benjamin Hill have fought to escape the shadow of their father, a dust-bowl orphan, self-made millionaire in bedrock American capitalism (fast food and oil), and destroyer of two families on his way to financial success. Now, they are approaching middle age and ruin: A failed ex–minor league ballplayer, divorced and mourning the death of his daughter in Miami; CIA veteran, off his meds and deciphering conspiracies in Manhattan; a Las Vegas showgirl turned old maid of The Strip, trying to stay clean; and an Alaskan bush pilot, twice un-indicted for manslaughter and recently thrown off his land by the federal government.  While their father finds himself at the center of a national scandal, these estranged siblings are drawn from their four corners of the country, compelled along crowded interstates by resentment and confusion, converging on a 300-acre horse ranch outside Omaha for a final confrontation with the father they never had.  This is a story about corporate greed, about the failures of capitalism, and, in the midst of these huge themes, there is a moving and suspenseful tale about one family’s unique dysfunctions.  The New York Times Review of Books wrote a lovely review of this debut, noting, “Charlesworth doesn’t mince words. . . . For such an unabashedly polemical first novel, The Patricide of George Benjamin Hill works surprising well, due in large measure to the unremitting intensity of its prose, the unsettling verisimilitude of its characters, and the moral courage at the core of its message.”

The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction: A miraculous alchemy occurs when one person reads to another, transforming the simple stuff of a book, a voice, and a bit of time into complex and powerful fuel for the heart, brain, and imagination.  Meghan Cox Gurdon’s work tales a scientific approach to the act of reading, blending the latest neuroscience and behavioral research with a passion for literature to explain and explore the dazzling cognitive and social-emotional benefits that await children, whatever their class, nationality or family background. But it’s not just about bedtime stories for little kids: Reading aloud consoles, uplifts and invigorates at every age, deepening the intellectual lives and emotional well-being of teenagers and adults, too.  For everyone, reading aloud engages the mind in complex narratives; for children, it’s an irreplaceable gift that builds vocabulary, fosters imagination, and kindles a lifelong appreciation of language, stories and pictures.  This is a book for anyone looking to understand the power of sharing and hearing stories that Library Journal recommended “For anybody interested in reading, especially parents, teachers, caregivers, and librarians, this inspirational work proclaims its joys and rewards.”

The Girls at 17 Swann Street: As much as we are heartily over the “books with girls in the title” trend, there’s no denying that Yara Zgheib’s debut is a vitally necessary and deeply emotional story that deserves to be read and discussed.  Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears – imperfection, failure, loneliness – she spirals down anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Valerie; Julia, always hungry. Together, they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day.  This isn’t an easy read, but it’s an important one.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this book a starred review, calling it, “an impressive, deeply moving debut. ”  And can we just say, what a week it is for debut novels!

The Stranger Inside: There have been a number of books that deal with strangers attempting to move into, or already living in, someone’s, and Laura Bendict plays on those fears in this new novel.  There’s a stranger living in Kimber Hannon’s house. He tells the police that he has every right to be there, and he has the paperwork to prove it. But Kimber definitely didn’t invite this man to move in. He tells her that he knows something about her, and he wants everyone else to know it too.  His  words reveal a connection to Kimber’s distant past, and dark secrets she’d long ago left buried. This trespasser isn’t after anything as simple as her money or her charming Craftsman bungalow. He wants to move into her carefully orchestrated life–and destroy it.  This book also earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who called it “Outstanding…. Kimber’s complicated personality and unusual family life drive the ever-twisting, surprise-filled plot…. [She] is the epitome of the unreliable narrator.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

 

Do You Know What Tomorrow Is?

It’s Pajama Day!

That’s right, if you are visiting the Library tomorrow, keep your eye out for your friendly Library staff in their fancy-dress PJ’s, comfy, cozy, and all in support of a good cause.

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From Our Official Press Release:

The Peabody Institute Library has teamed up with the Boston Bruins to participate in their annual pajama drive to benefit DCF Kids and Cradles to Crayons. The Boston Bruins PJ Drive runs from February 1 through March 15, 2019. The library will be collecting new pairs of pajamas for babies, children and teens. New pajamas can be dropped off at any of the Peabody Library’s 3 locations: the Main Library on 82 Main St., the South Branch on 78 Lynn St. or the West Branch at 603 Lowell St.

The PJ Drive’s goal is to collect 12,000 pairs of new pajamas for children and teens in need.  “It’s hard to imagine that so many kids and teens don’t know the comforting feeling of putting on PJs before settling down to sleep. We’re happy to be part of an effort to change that,” said Director Melissa Robinson.

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) works with the Boston Bruins to coordinate library participation in the drive.  Libraries from around the state use the Massachusetts Library System’s delivery service, typically used to send books and other library materials, to send their PJs to area collection locations which increases libraries’ ability to participate in the drive.

So feel free to bring a new pair of pajamas for babies, young children, and teens to the library between now and March 15, and help us help those young people in our community who deserve some more coziness, comfort, and security in their lives.Image result for boston bruins pj drive

Telling New Stories about The First World War

Those of you who attended the first week of our two-week book discussion on Mary Borden’s The Forbidden Zone were treated to a lively discussion about the kind of stories we tell about the First World War, and how they shape the way we think about history and what we can learn from a given moment in time.

As was pointed out last night, the traditional narrative of The First World War tells us that the war was ugly and disillusioning and utterly, totally futile.  That it’s only value lies in the fact that it led to the Second World War.  But in reality, that narrative obscures the critical importance of the First World War to a significant number of historic events, movements, and developments.  To take just a few examples, our language evolved as a result of the war.  Phrases like “binge drink”, “blind spot”, and “pushing up daisies” all entered the vernacular between 1914 and 1918.  The rise of women employed in industry, mechanics, and technical jobs rose significantly, if only for the duration of the war.  But the result was that a significant number of women received training for new kinds of work, were exposed to new people, and learned a new kind of self-reliance.  In the United States, Black men and women enlisted in a number of positions, and worked on the home front, leading to a change in national demographics, but, more importantly, a renewed fight for civil rights across the country.  Some of the medical advancements made during the war remain with us today, from plastic surgery to burn treatments.

And so, with that in mind, we wanted to share some book recommendations for those looking to read some new stories about the First World War that get away from the narratives of the War Poets and traditional narratives that stick with us regarding the war.  We hope you enjoy!

The Forbidden ZoneMary Borden was born in Chicago, but was living with her husband in London when the war broke out.  When the Red Cross turned down her offer to buy them a hospital, she built, funded, and staffed a hospital on her own, and worked there as a volunteer nurse for the duration of the war.  This book is a collection of her reminiscences, memories, and experiences of war service, written largely while she was at the front.  As a result, this is a collection of stories about the women who lived behind the front lines, and how they survived the war, about the colonial troops who served for the British and the French armies, about the kind of wounds she treated, and the moral and physical challenges of caring for soldiers in war, knowing you were healing them to go back and fight further.  Structurally, the book is a modernist masterpiece, show that the modernist form of writing was not in anyway exclusive to the men in the trenches.

Three ComradesErich Maria Remarque is perhaps best known for his novel All Quiet on the Western Front, but his later works are also sensational, and drive home the lasting effects of the war, not only on veterans, but on the societies as a whole that had to endure the war.  This book, written during the rise of Hitler and his National Socialist Party, tell of three war veterans, and the woman with whom one of them falls in love.  It’s a tragedy, and it’s a hauntingly beautiful study of the melancholy and loss that its main characters are all suffering after the war, and in the world it left behind.  It’s also a deeply moving story of friendship and love that counters the narratives of brutality and anger that are so often found in stories from the trenches.

The Forty Days of Musa Dagh cover 2012 edition.jpgThe Forty Days of Musa Dagh: The First World War was not only a European war–it was one that truly encompassed the world, and Austrian novelist Franz Werfel shares one of the darkest parts of the war in this novel, based on true events.  The story was inspired by the self-defense by a small community of Armenians living near Musa Dagh, in the Ottoman Empire (the area is part of current-day Turkey), and recounts the events of the Armenian Genocide, which began within the context of the war, with perpetrators using the chaos of war to hide and justify their actions.  Werfel continued to rewrite and update the book after its first publication in response to the rise of the Nazi party, and the persecution of people within Werfel’s own life.  The Armenian Genocide is a critically important aspect of the First World War, but this book also documents the Genocide itself, and sheds light on how states and people shift their language to dehumanize groups within its own borders.

Announcing the NOBLE Book Awards 2018!

Who better to give tips on great books than your local librarians? This year, we all decided to get in on the fun of Book Awards by celebrating our favorite reads of 2018.  After a nomination Library staff voted for their favorite books of 2018 for different age groups and categories.  Here’s a list of the winners and runners up, and a link to the shortlist of nominated books, all linked to the library catalog to make it easy to find and request them!  Stop by any NOBLE library for more information on these excellent books, and to talk to staff members about their favorite reads!


First place

The woman in the window : a novel by A.J. FinnIt isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . . Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors. Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare. What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

Runners-up

An American marriage by Tayari Jones: When her new husband is arrested and imprisoned for a crime she knows he did not commit, a rising artist takes comfort in a longtime friendship only to encounter unexpected challenges in resuming her life when her husband’s sentence is suddenly overturned.  An insightful look into the lives of people who are bound and separated by forces beyond their control. By the author of Silver Sparrow.

 

Circe : a novel, by Madeline Miller
A highly-anticipated follow-up to the award-winning The Song of Achilles follows Circe, the banished witch daughter of Helios, as she hones her powers and interacts with famous mythological beings before a conflict with one of the most vengeful Olympians forces her to choose between the worlds of the gods and mortals.  

Shortlist of nominated Adult Fiction


Adult Nonfiction

First place

Educated : a memoir by Tara Westover:  Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag.” The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. As a way out, Tara began to educate herself, learning enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University. Her quest for knowledge would transform her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Runners-up

I’ll be gone in the dark : one woman’s obsessive search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara:  For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area. Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” She pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was, and unfortunately the gifted journalist died tragically before completing this book, which was completed from her notes.

 

Calypso by David Sedaris:  A latest collection of personal essays by the best-selling author of Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls and Me Talk Pretty One Day shares even more revealing and intimate memories from his upbringing and family life, as well as his adventures after buying a vacation house on the Carolina coast and his reflections on middle age and mortality. 

Shortlist of nominated Adult Nonfiction


Adult Graphic Novels

First place

Herding cats : a “Sarah’s scribbles” collection by Sarah Andersen:  With characteristic wit and charm, Sarah Andersen’s third collection of comics and illustrated personal essays offers a survival guide for frantic modern life: from the importance of avoiding morning people, to Internet troll defense 101, to the not-so-life-changing futility of tidying up. But when all else fails and the world around you is collapsing, make a hot chocolate, count the days until Halloween, and snuggle up next to your furry beacon of hope.

Runners-up

Anne Frank’s diary : the graphic adaptation: The only graphic biography of Anne Frank’s diary that has been authorized by the Anne Frank Foundation and that uses text from the diary–it will introduce a new generation of young readers to this classic of Holocaust literature. This adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl into a graphic version for a young readership, maintains the integrity and power of the original work. With stunning, expressive illustrations and ample direct quotation from the diary, this edition will expand the readership for this important and lasting work of history and literature.

 

McElroy, Clint
The adventure zone. Here there be gerblins by Clint McElroy:  Join Taako the elf wizard, Merle the dwarf cleric, and Magnus the human warrior for an adventure they are poorly equipped to handle AT BEST, guided (“guided”) by their snarky DM, in a graphic novel that, like the smash-hit podcast it’s based on, will tickle your funny bone, tug your heartstrings, and probably pants you if you give it half a chance.

Shortlist of nominated Adult Graphic Novels


Young Adult Fiction

First place

The poet X : a novel by Elizabeth Acevedo:
Xiomara Batista struggles to navigate her place in the world, with her peers, and in her neighborhood.  As an escape, she pours all her frustrations and passion into poetry, using her words to describe her fears, dreams, hopes, and rages over the injustices that are plainly evident all around her.  And when Xiomara is invited to join the school slam poetry club, she struggles with her mother’s social and religious expectations and her own vital need to be heard,

Runners-up

Children of blood and bone by Tomi Adeyemi:  Seventeen-year-old Zélie, her older brother Tzain, and rogue princess Amari fight to restore magic to the land and activate a new generation of magi, but they are ruthlessly pursued by the crown prince, who believes the return of magic will mean the end of the monarchy.

 

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak: Upon their father’s return, the five Dunbar boys, who have raised themselves since their mother’s death, begin to learn family secrets, including that of fourth brother Clay, who will build a bridge for complex reasons, including his own redemption.

Shortlist of nominated Young Adult Fiction


Young Adult Nonfiction

First place

(Don’t) call me crazy : 33 voices start the conversation about mental health
Presents an anthology of essays and illustrations that illuminate such mental health topics as autism, bipolar disorder, body dysmorphia, depression, and healing in a straightforward way.

 

Mary Shelley : the strange, true tale of Frankenstein’s creator by Catherine Reef
On the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, comes a riveting biography of its author, Mary Shelley, whose life reads like a dark gothic novel, filled with scandal, death, drama, and one of the strangest love stories in literary history.

 

Americanized : rebel without a green card by Sara Saedi:  In San Jose, California, in the 1990s, teenaged Sara keeps a diary of life as an Iranian American and her discovery that she and her family entered as undocumented immigrants.

Shortlist of nominated Young Adult Nonfiction


Young Adult Graphic Novels

First place

The prince and the dressmaker by Jen Wang:  When Prince Sebastian confides in his dressmaker friend Frances that he loves to masquerade at night as the fashionable Lady Crystallia, Frances must decide if Sebastian’s secret is worth a lifetime of living in the shadows.

Runners-up

Brazen : rebel ladies who rocked the world by Pénélope Bagieu:  With her characteristic wit and dazzling drawings, celebrated graphic novelist Penelope Bagieu profiles the lives of these feisty female role models, some world famous, some little known. From Nellie Bly to Mae Jemison or Josephine Baker to Naziq al-Abid, the stories in this comic biography are sure to inspire the next generation of rebel ladies to forge their own path.

 

Hey, kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka: In kindergarten, Jarrett Krosoczka’s teacher asks him to draw his family, with a mommy and a daddy. But Jarrett’s family is much more complicated than that. His mom is an addict, in and out of rehab, and in and out of Jarrett’s life. His father is a mystery — Jarrett doesn’t know where to find him, or even what his name is. Jarrett lives with his grandparents — two very loud, very loving, very opinionated people who had thought they were through with raising children until Jarrett came along.

Shortlist of nominated Young Adult Graphic Novels


Children’s Picture Books

First place

Julián is a mermaid by Jessica love:  While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes — and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself?

Runners-up

We don’t eat our classmates! by Ryan T. Higgins:  When the class pet bites the finger of Penelope, a tyrannosaurus rex, she finally understands why she should not eat her classmates, no matter how tasty they are.

 

Square by Mac Barnett:  When his friend Circle asks him to do her portrait after praising him as a sculptor and genius, Square struggles to carve her likeness from a stone block.

Shortlist of nominated Children’s Picture Books


Children’s Graphic Novels

First place

Unicorn of many hats : another Phoebe and her unicorn adventure by Dana Simpson:  Phoebe and her exceptional hooved pal are back in this all-new collection of comics! Laugh alongside the lovable duo as they question the idea of “coolness,” gain a deeper appreciation for the power of friendship, and put off summer reading assignments for as long as physically possible.

Runners-up

Dog Man : lord of the fleas by Dav Pilkey:  When a new bunch of baddies bust up the town, Dog Man is called into action — and this time he isn’t alone. With a cute kitten and a remarkable robot by his side, our heroes must save the day by joining forces with an unlikely ally: Petey, the World’s Most Evil Cat. But can the villainous Petey avoid vengeance and venture into virtue?

 

Baby Monkey, private eye by Brian Selznick:  Baby Monkey, private eye, will investigate stolen jewels, missing pizzas, and other mysteries–if he can manage to figure out how to put his pants on.

Shortlist of nominated Children’s Graphic Novels


Children’s Fiction

First place

Sunny by Jason Reynolds:  Sunny, the Defenders’ best runner, only runs for his father, who blames Sunny for his mother’s death, but with his coach’s help Sunny finds a way to combine track and field with his true passion, dancing.

Runners-up

Louisiana’s way home by Kate DiCamillo: 
When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town — including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder — she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes. (Which could be due to the curse on Louisiana’s and Granny’s heads. But that is a story for another time.)

 

Front desk by Kelly Yang:  Recent immigrants from China and desperate for work and money, ten-year-old Mia Tang’s parents take a job managing a rundown motel in Southern California, even though the owner, Mr. Yao is a nasty skinflint who exploits them; while her mother (who was an engineer in China) does the cleaning, Mia works the front desk and tries to cope with demanding customers and other recent immigrants–not to mention being only one of two Chinese in her fifth grade class, the other being Mr. Yao’s son, Jason.

Shortlist of nominated Children’s Fiction


Children’s Nonfiction

First place

Hidden figures : the untold true story of four African-American women who helped launch our nation into space Margot Lee Shetterly:  Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as “Human Computers,” calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts by Jim Crow laws, these “colored computers,” as they were known, used slide rules, adding machines, and pencil and paper to support America’s fledgling aeronautics industry, and helped write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. Drawing on the oral histories of scores of these “computers,” personal recollections, interviews with NASA executives and engineers, archival documents, correspondence, and reporting from the era, Hidden Figures recalls America’s greatest adventure and NASA’s groundbreaking successes through the experiences of five spunky, courageous, intelligent, determined, and patriotic women: Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Christine Darden, and Gloria Champine. Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the women’s rights movement, Hidden Figures interweaves a history of scientific achievement and technological innovation with the intimate stories of five women whose work forever changed the world — and whose lives show how out of one of America’s most painful histories came one of its proudest moments.

Runners-up

Morales, Yuyi
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales: 
An illustrated picture book autobiography in which award-winning author Yuyi Morales tells her own immigration story.

 

Lights!, camera!, Alice! : the thrilling true adventures of the first woman filmmaker: Mara Rockliff:  Meet Alice Guy-Blaché. She made movies–some of the very first movies, and some of the most exciting! Blow up a pirate ship? Why not? Crawl into a tiger’s cage? Of course! Leap off a bridge onto a real speeding train? It will be easy! Driven by her passion for storytelling, Alice saw a potential for film that others had not seen before, allowing her to develop new narratives, new camera angles, new techniques, and to surprise her audiences again and again. With daring and vision, Alice Guy-Blaché introduced the world to a thrilling frontier of imagination and adventure, and became one of filmmaking’s first and greatest innovators.

Shortlist of nominated Children’s Nonfiction


Poetry

First place

Can I touch your hair? : poems of race, mistakes, and friendship by Irene Latham: 
Irene Latham, who is white, and Charles Waters, who is black, present paired poems about topics including family dinners, sports, recess, and much more. This relatable collection explores different experiences of race in America.

Runners-up

For every one by Jason Reynolds:
Originally performed at the Kennedy Center for the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and later as a tribute to Walter Dean Myers, this stirring and inspirational poem is New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist Jason Reynolds’s rallying cry to the dreamers of the world. Jump Anyway is for kids who dream. Kids who dream of being better than they are. Kids who dream of doing more than they almost dare to dream. Kids who are like Jason, a self-professed dreamer. In it, Jason does not claim to know how to make dreams come true; he has, in fact, been fighting on the front line of his own battle to make his own dreams a reality. He expected to make it when he was sixteen. He inched that number up to eighteen, then twenty-five years old..Now, some of those expectations have been realized. But others, the most important ones, lay ahead, and a lot of them involve kids, how to inspire them. All the kids who are scared to dream, or don’t know how to dream, or don’t dare to dream because they’ve NEVER seen a dream come true. Jason wants kids to know that dreams take time. They involve countless struggles. But no matter how many times a dreamer gets beat down, the drive and the passion and the hope never fully extinguish–because just having the dream is the start you need, or you won’t get anywhere anyway, and that is when you have to take a leap of faith and…jump anyway.

 

Wade in the water : poems by Tracy K. Smith:  A Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, using her signature voice–inquisitive, lyrical and wry–mulls over what it means to be a citizen, a mother and an artist in a culture arbitrated by wealth, men and violence, boldly tying America’s modern moment both to our nation’s fraught founding history and to a sense of the spirit, the everlasting.

Shortlist of nominated Poetry

 

Congratulations to all our winners!!

Steampunk: Science Fiction’s Up and Coming Star!

The term steampunk was coined in the late 80’s by author K.W. Jeter in a letter to Locus Magazine. “Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for Powers, Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like ‘steam-punks’, perhaps.” With more steampunk stories becoming mainstream and movies being created with similar themes it seems like this is going to be the next big thing in the science fiction world!

But what is “steampunk” really? The genre usually consists of Victorian era alternative fashion, steam powered machinery, and magic intermingling with science! Steampunk stories almost always have an adventure driven plot with quirky and interesting main characters to help move the plot. Some of these traits can be found in early works such as H.G. Wells’ Time Machine and Edward Ellis’ The Steam Man of the Prairies.

Want to continue exploring the exciting world of steampunk? Here are some great reads to get you started!

Clockwork Angel (Infernal Devices Series) by Cassandra Clare
The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them…

The Mortal Engines (The Hungry City Chronicles) by Philip Reeve
London is hunting again. Emerging from its hiding place in the hills, the great Traction City is chasing a terrified little town across the wastelands. Soon, London will feed. In the attack, Tom Natsworthy is flung from the speeding city with a murderous scar-faced girl. They must run for their lives through the wreckage–and face a terrifying new weapon that threatens the future of the world.

Leviathan (Leviathan Series) by Scott Westerfeld
It is the cusp of World War I. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ genetically fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet. Aleksandar Ferdinand, a Clanker, and Deryn Sharp, a Darwinist, are on opposite sides of the war. But their paths cross in the most unexpected way, taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure….One that will change both their lives forever.

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials) by Philip Pullman
Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal–including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world. Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want–but what Lyra doesn’t know is that to help one of them will be to betray the other.

Boneshaker (The Clockwork Century Series) by Cherie Priest
In the early days of the Civil War, rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaska’s ice. Thus was Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born. After the devastating failure of the machine sixteen years later, a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just beyond it lives Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenaged boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires) by Jim Butcher
Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace. Captain Grimm, who commands the merchant ship, Predator is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory. During this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come.

Happy Reading!