Category Archives: Book Reviews
By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department
It’s ok to come in, Darling Reader. There will be no mention here of Chucky, the murderous redheaded horror movie icon, or of any other scary incarnations of dolls (shudder) becoming sentient. We’re only going to talk about the fun, charming toys that inexplicably develop intelligence and the ability to communicate. If you are of the sort that finds it unbearably creepy to think about any toy becoming mobile and verbal, you might wish to bypass this blog and tune in to my next brilliant installment. But if you’re brave enough, take my hand while I introduce you to a random assortment of toys who have something to say . . .
First up on our list (because you should know by now that I do what I want) is the magnificent, delightful, enchanting The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (J F DIC). Edward Tulane is a gorgeous, arrogant china rabbit who lives in an enormous house, wears only the finest clothes, and feels that he should be admired by all for his singular beauty. Anyone can see that Edward is headed for a heartbreak (nothing like the Winger song from the 1980s, but I couldn’t resist borrowing that particular turn of phrase. Apologies, Kip.) Through no fault of his own, Edward is sent on an odyssey in which he learns what it’s like to lose, yet to love and be loved again. This is my very favorite of all of DiCamillo’s books, and one of my favorite children’s books; the lush, intricately detailed illustrations by award-winning artist Bagram Ibatoulline enhance Edward’s adventure so beautifully, and make this journey worth taking again and again.
Next on my list, and the reason for this month’s blog theme because of the cinematic release of Christopher Robin in August of this year, is Winnie-the-Pooh by Alan Alexander Milne (J F MILNE). Winnie the Pooh, aka Pooh Bear, first appeared as Edward Bear in a poem in A.A. Milne’s1924 children’s verse book When We Were Very Young. The first collection of stories about Pooh and his friends was Winnie-the-Pooh, published in October of 1926 and followed by The House at Pooh Corner in 1928. Milne named the character for a teddy bear owned by his son, Christopher Robin Milne, who was of course the inspiration for the character Christopher Robin. Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger were also toys belonging to Christopher Robin Milne and were incorporated into A.A. Milne’s stories. Owl and Rabbit were created from Milne’s imagination, and Gopher was later added in the Disney theatrical adaptation. Are you having a day, Darling Reader? Make yourself a nice cup of tea and get a “smackerel” of something like Pooh would, find a quiet place, and spend some quality time with Pooh and his wonderful friends, before you go see the new movie adaptation.
Another book-to-movie-to-remake in this same vein is the Caldecott-winning book Jumanji by gifted storyteller and artist Chris Van Allsburg (J E VAN). There are Judy and Peter, bored out of their little skulls and left completely unsupervised while their parents’ attend the opera, when they encounter a long, thin box that says JUMANJI, A JUNGLE ADVENTURE GAME, and also has an ominous, handwritten message taped to the box: “Free game, fun for some but not for all. P.S. Read instructions carefully.” There is an additional caveat in the game’s instructions, and apparently it’s a crucial one, since the writer of the note put it in all capital letters: “VERY IMPORTANT: ONCE A GAME OF JUMANJI IS STARTED IT WILL NOT BE OVER UNTIL ONE PLAYER REACHES THE GOLDEN CITY.” Hilarity and highjinks ensue, and Judy and Peter survive the game just in time for their parents return home, with guests in tow. They had a tremendous adventure that day with the game that became all too real, and learned a valuable lesson that day regarding the importance of reading the directions . . . but the sly, clever final paragraph of the book implies that young Danny and Walter, who are notorious for never listening to instructions, may not fare quite so well.
I often say that it’s a desperately sad irony that working in a library really cuts into one’s time for pleasure reading. Hence, much time passes between my opportunities to read Beatrix Potter’s delightful, classic tales of little beasties, and I forget between readings about how charming and clever her stories are. Such is the case with The Tale Of Two Bad Mice (J E POTTER). “Once upon a time there was a very beautiful doll’s-house; it was red brick with white windows . . . it belonged to two Dolls called Lucinda and Jane .” One fine morning while Lucinda and Jane were out of the red brick dollhouse for a spin in their perambulator, the aforementioned two bad mice, Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca, trashed the dollhouse out of frustration—they were hangry, to use a modern portmanteau—because they discovered that the appetizing delicacies on the dining room table were actually not edible. Hunca Munca continued the rodents’ crime spree by absconding with a pillow, a baby’s cradle, and some of Lucinda’s clothes, and also some “useful pots and pans, and several other things.” Reparations of a sort were later made by Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca for their vandalism and larceny, when he found a sixpence under the rug and stuffed it into one of the dolls’ stockings on Christmas Eve; and every morning before anybody is awake, she sweeps the Dollies’ house with her purloined broom.
Darling Reader, I’ve saved my favorite title for last. I don’t remember exactly when a smart-mouthed, spiky-haired kid named Calvin and his very real stuffed tiger Hobbes entered my life. I’m reasonably certain that it was not November of 1985, as I was a smart-mouthed, big-haired high school junior who was more concerned with my reflection in the driver’s-side mirror of my 1978 Camaro than with reflection on love, art, theology, mortality, public education, paleontology, environmentalism, and the repercussive effects of human free will.
Calvin and Hobbes was conceived by American cartoonist Bill Watterson and made its syndicated debut on November 18, 1985, and ran until December 31, 1995. The strip follows the raucous antics and adventures of Calvin, a precocious six-year-old boy, and Hobbes, his quick-witted toy tiger. The pair was named for 16th-century French theologian John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes, a 17th-century English philosopher. Hobbes’ shifting duality is a defining theme of the strip: to Calvin, he is always a live, anthropomorphic tiger; to all others (his parents, his archnemesis Susie Derkins, et. al.), he is merely an inanimate plush toy. Darling Reader, if you have room in your existence for only one toy that comes to life, I beseech you to make it Hobbes.
That’s it for today, Darling Reader. Tune in again next month for my meandering musings on literature and life.
Yeah, I did say there wouldn’t be any Chucky references in the blog . . . but I didn’t place any such restrictions on the appearance of his lovely bride Tiffany. Also, any similarities between Tiffany and the author of this blog are purely coincidental, with the exception of the motorcycle jacket.
By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department
In honor of this year’s summer reading “Libraries Rock” theme, here is a random assortment of rockin’ reads for the young, or young at heart. In absolutely no discernable order:
Who Are The Rolling Stones? by Dana Meachen Rau (J92 ROL)
Sanitized for your protection, this book chronicles the meteoric rise and unparalleled success, five decades later, of this author’s favorite band. As this is a children’s book, none of the lurid details of the many (ahem) colorful incidents that earned The Stones their reputation as the bad boys of the British Invasion are present. (Also worth reading in this engaging series of biographies for elementary and middle school-aged students: Who Is Elton John?; Who Was Bob Marley? (to be published in June 2017); Who Was Elvis Presley?; Who Were The Beatles?; Who Was Michael Jackson?; and many more music-related titles.)
Jimi: Sounds Like A Rainbow by Gary Golio and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (J92 HEN)
A beautifully written and illustrated story of the phenomenally talented musician James Marshall Hendrix, later known to the world as Jimi, who departed this earthly realm entirely too soon at the age of 27. His legacy lives on through his music, and his influence continues to inspire and electrify fans of all ages.
Hello, I’m Johnny Cash by G. Neri and illustrated by A.G. Ford (J 92 CASH)
Those four simple words were how this man with the deep, soulful, often otherworldly voice would start his shows after “I Walk The Line” became the number one country song in America, and the anthem for how this once dirt-poor man from Arkansas wished to live his life. Neri captures The Man in Black’s legend in free verse, and Ford’s lush, detailed paintings of the Southern backdrop of Cash’s life make this book one that will be enjoyed by children and adults alike.
Music Lab: We Rock! A Fun Family Guide For Exploring Rock Music History by Jason Hanley (J 781.6609)
If an alien landed in your bedroom one night and tasked you with teaching him/her/it about Rock & Roll, it would be fortuitous if you had this sensational book close at hand. Written by Jason Hanley, Ph.D., education director at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this book offers an introduction to some of the greatest songs in rock history, provides anecdotes about the artists and the social and historical events at the time the songs were written, and provides fun lab-style activities that begin with the basics of rock and move through the soul and punk genres, and then cover dance and new wave. Best of all are the frozen-in-time photographs and the recommended set lists. I totally have to throw the horns for this book. (Don’t know what that means? Look it up.)
How The Beatles Changed The World by Martin W. Sandler (J 782.4216 SAN)
When the Lads From Liverpool burst onto the music scene in the tumultuous decade known as The Sixties, they charmed and excited millions of fans the world over, and they ultimately transformed and transcended the rock genre. This compendium of their rocketship ride to musical stardom contains hundreds of stunning photographs that capture the rich, beautiful history of The Beatles.
Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music That Changed The World by Robbie Robertson, Jim Guerinot, Sebastian Robertson and James Levine (J 920 ROB)
Penned by 4 multitalented music industry veterans, this very cool volume would look right at home on anyone’s coffee table and includes 2 CDs with tracks from such legends as Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Marvin Gaye, and Hank Williams, to name just a few. The book pays loving tribute to twenty-seven groundbreaking artists whose innovations and creations altered the music landscape for generations to come.
Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday And The Power Of A Protest Song by Gary Golio (J 782.4216 GOL)
At the time of “Lady Day’s” death from liver and heart failure in 1959 at the age of 44, she was heralded as one of the greatest female vocalists and jazz singers of all time. Her best-selling record and signature song “Strange Fruit” challenged the attitudes of racism in America and was an important milestone in what would become the civil rights movement.
What Was Woodstock? by Joan Holub (J 781.6609 HOL)
Well, duh, Woodstock was the sweet little yellow bird who was Snoopy’s best friend. Right? Charles Schulz, creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip publicly acknowledged in several interviews during the 1970s that he named the bird after the music festival held at Max and MiriamYasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York, over three days in August of 1969. (Artwork from the festival features a bird perched on the neck of a guitar.) My favorite part of this clever little book is the page of “Sixties Slang.” You dig?
Shake, Rattle & Roll: The Founders of Rock & Roll by Holly George-Warren (J 781.66 GEO)
A whimsically-illustrated introduction to 14 of rock & roll’s groundbreakers and earthshakers, such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, and more. In the words of Chuck Berry: “Hail, hail, rock & roll!”
Rock on with your bad selves, and happy reading–
As always, the opinions and viewpoints expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and in no way representative of WCPL, its employees, or their parents who may have shouted at them to “turn that infernal noise down!” at some point in their lives. To that end, you may have to speak up a bit when talking to the author, because she spent many hours next to a Marshall stack in her flaming youth, and last week.
By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department
With the recent release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth film installment in the Jurassic Park series (F CRICHTON, the book from whence it all began, just so you grownup types will know) playing in a theater near you, what better tie-in than a blog about dinosaurs for those who are too young to get in to see a PG-13 flick?
Let’s start off with two options from the fabulous Mo Willems: Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct (J E WILLEMS) and Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. Everyone in town loves Edwina, and what’s not to love? She makes excellent chocolate chip cookies, has spectacular fashion sense, but most of all, she is a great friend. So when oppressive know-it-all Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie delivers a report to his classmates on “Things That Are Extinct,” no one really listens to him . . . no one except Edwina, that is. Hoobie-Doobie pontificated at great length as to the truth about dinosaurs, and Edwina was shocked (or “shook,” in today’s parlance.) But you know what? Edwina didn’t care! And by the end of his lecture, neither did RVHD. He was so stoked that someone finally listened to him, and was just pleased to enjoy Edwina’s friendship, along with a batch of her famous cookies. The subtle irony of the situation, combined with Willems’ signature artwork, make this a delightful read. Added bonus: cameo appearances by Willems’ Pigeon and Knuffle Bunny.
Further evidence of Mo Willems’ brilliance is found in Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs (J E WILLEMS), his sly and hilarious adaptation of the classic fairy tale. Behold: “Once upon a time, there were three hungry Dinosaurs: Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur . . . and a Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway. One day—for no particular reason—they decided to tidy up their house, make the beds, and prepare pudding of varying temperatures. And then—for no particular reason—they decided to go . . . someplace else. They were definitely not setting a trap for some succulent, unsupervised little girl. Definitely not!” Hysterical, I tell you.
Here we have the perfect explanation for those trying times when you can’t find your mascara, and you are certain that you put it back in your traincase, or the crayons are inexplicably scattered across the playroom floor, and you know you stowed them neatly in their container before going to bed. What The Dinosaurs Did Last Night: A Very Messy Adventure by Refe and Susan Tuma (J E TUMA) is a whimsical and imaginative tale that will appeal to those of us who occasionally scoff at following the rules. See also: What The Dinosaurs Did At School by the same authors.
Rounding out the picture book category in today’s blog are the numerous How Do Dinosaurs . . . titles by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague (J E YOLEN). The problem-solution formula for this series helps children and parents or caregivers navigate various situations such as anger management (How Do Dinosaurs Say I’m Mad?), personal responsibility and ownership (How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Rooms?), social interaction (How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends?) and many other scenarios. My personal favorite in the series is How Do Dinosaurs Go To Sleep?
For those times when you need more than a cute bedtime dinosaur story and want to expand your factual knowledge of prehistoric creatures, these two nonfiction choices fit the bill perfectly. Dinosaurs: A Visual Encyclopedia (J 567.9 DIN) and Ultimate Dinopedia: The Most Complete Dinosaur Reference Ever (J 567.903 LES) both contain profiles of hundreds of dinosaurs, including several recently discovered dinos.
Darling Reader, wasn’t that ever so much better than watching a bunch of ill-mannered, poison-spitting, computer-generated dinosaurs? Happy reading!
As always, the opinions expressed here are solely those of the author, who wishes she had a pet pterodactyl so that she could avoid flying via commercial airlines. Also, I want to acknowledge a T. Rex-sized assist on this blog from my awesome friend Nate of Birmingham, Alabama.
By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department
Originally decreed as Black Music Month by then-president Jimmy Carter in June 1979, the designation was changed in 2009 to African-American Music Appreciation Month. In his 2016 proclamation, former president Barack Obama stated that African-American music and musicians have helped our country “ . . . to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice, and to defend our country’s enduring promise of freedom and opportunity for all.” Hence, I bring to you in no particular order, a great selection of books from Williamson County Public Library Children’s Department celebrating “Lady Day’s” soaring vocals, the Motown Sound, Bob Marley’s plaintive ballads, Jimi Hendrix’s groundbreaking guitar playing, and much more.
First on the list for today’s magical musical journey is Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through The Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney (J 781.6440 PIN) “You ready, child? Let’s go.” Thus begins this beautifully written account of young performers who were catalysts for change in American music, and along with it, a cultural revolution. The 1960s were exciting and often turbulent times. For Berry Gordy, the man who has been largely credited with creating what would come to be known as “the Motown Sound,” it all started with an $800 loan and a vision of greatness. The year was 1959, and Gordy was on the brink of something amazing, something that would have far-reaching influence on music for decades to come. Drawing upon the talents of his family and local performers, Gordy created a record label for black musicians such as Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Martha Reeves, and Diana Ross, just to name a few. The rest, as they say, is history.
Next up on the recommended reading list for African-American Music Appreciation Month is Jimi: Sounds Like A Rainbow written by Gary Golio and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (J 92 HENDRIX). A stylishly written and illustrated story of the phenomenally talented James Marshall Hendrix, known to the world as Jimi, who departed this earth at the way-too-soon age of 27. His legacy lives on decades later, and his groundbreaking music continues to inspire and electrify fans of all ages.
Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday And The Power Of A Protest Song by Gary Golio (J 782.4216 GOL). At the time of her death from liver and heart failure in 1959 at the age of 44, Billie Holiday (nee Eleanora Fagan) was heralded as one of the greatest female vocalists and jazz singers of all time. Her best-selling record and signature song “Strange Fruit” challenged the attitudes of racism in America and was an important milestone in what would become the American civil rights movement.
No reading list about African-American music would be complete without mention of the excellent books about black musicians in the “Who Is/Who Was?” series, which features titles such as Who was Bob Marley? (J 92 MAR), Who Was Louis Armstrong? (J 92 ARM), Who Was Stevie Wonder? (J 92 WON), and Who Was Michael Jackson? (J 92 JAC). The books in this series feature whimsical illustrations and side notes about the subject, and are so much fun to read . Check ‘em out! (OK, that’s my one and only pun for this blog, I swear.)
Trombone Shorty by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews (J 788.9316 AND) is a delightful, picturesque story of how a talented young boy from New Orleans didn’t always have the money to buy an instrument, but he did have the dream to play music. Plucked from a crowd by none other than the legendary Bo Diddley and allowed to play his trombone on stage, he was then inspired to form his own band. Today, Andrews is a frequent performer at the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the place where he got his first break.
Last but not least on my list of recommendations is Bob Marley: The Life Of A Musical Legend by Gary Jeffrey (J 92 MARLEY). Part biography, part graphic novel, this very cool book celebrates famed Jamaican musician Bob Marley. His body ravaged by cancer, Marley departed this earthly realm at the young age of 36, but his music and his message of peace continues to inspire people all over the world.
As always, the opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author alone, and not representative of any other WCPL employees. Ms. Parish can occasionally be overheard quoting Jimi Hendrix’s lyrics and belting out “Voodoo Chile,” but only when she’s home alone or behind the wheel of her car.
By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
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When confronted with a thriller, I used to think, “Here’s a novel that features guns, bombs, and lies. Probably some politics, too.” And while those elements might feature in some bestselling books, I now know how narrow my perception was. For I have probed past the whims of pop culture, and discovered some of the fascinating premises to be found within the realm of suspense, thriller, and crime novels. While this genre may not be new to you, I hope you’ll follow along with this two-part post, and perhaps leave your best recommendations at the end.
“Crime pays,” says journalist Anita Singh, writing for The Telegraph: “thrillers and detective novels now outsell all other fiction.”  It’s a broad category: these novels might be packed with fast-paced action (the Jason Bourne series), psychological drama (Gone Girl), or military intrigue (The Hunt for Red October). With high stakes and life-or-death outcomes, thrillers often become the basis for hit movies. And while supernatural or dystopian tales may have had a surge in popularity over recent years, thrillers continue to enthrall us because they could happen. Grounded in reality, often set in present-day, they let us imagine what life would be like if we got on the wrong side of a corrupt government – or a jealous lover.
But why would anyone want to do that? The late novelist and critic Mary McCarthy explained it this way: “We all live in suspense, from day to day, from hour to hour….” And, as writer Lisa Gardner adds, “…one of the appeals of suspense is [that we can] safely explore our innermost fears.”  In other words, we all live with a high degree of uncertainty in our lives. The more nervous, fragile, lonely, pessimistic, or uninformed we feel, the more we fear that uncertainty. When fiction addresses that primal fear, it allows us to take a breath, say to ourselves, “OK. What if?” and confront those worst-case scenarios. Fear often shrinks under scrutiny. And if we vicariously reach a satisfying solution through the deeds of our literary avatars, so much the better.
Today, we’ll start with the heavy hitters: the names that even I recognized! Then we’ll look at the classic works of literature that paved the way for those authors. Next week, we’ll scrounge up a few “deep cuts” – lesser-known works of suspense by authors who usually fit into a different genre. And we’ll highlight some of the women authors who are shaking things up in the realm of suspense.
- Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond Casino Royale is a classic. Fleming said, “While thrillers may not be Literature with a capital L, it is possible to write what I can best describe as ‘thrillers designed to be read as literature’.” 
- Robert Ludlum, creator of the character Jason Bourne. Ludlum died in 2001, but the wildly popular Bourne series continues, thanks to a collective of authors who carry his torch.
- Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series also continues posthumously, following the success of Larsson’s first three novels, beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
- Tom Clancy created the Jack Ryan character in The Hunt for Red October. There are now more than 20 novels in the series.
- John le Carré introduced British intelligence officer George Smiley in Call for the Dead, and he appears in nine other novels, perhaps most famously in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
- The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale by Joseph Conrad. A tale of terrorism, anarchy, and political intrigue, set in 1880s London.
- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Although many modern reprints give this gothic work the appearance of a romance novel, it’s a psychological work that led to a rather faithful film adaptation by that master of suspense, Sir Alfred Hitchcock.
- A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This is the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes, star of four novels and many short stories by Doyle. Fans of the BBC series Sherlock may find the differences – and similarities – amusing.
- “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe. Before there was Sherlock Holmes, there was C. Auguste Dupin, Poe’s amateur detective with uncanny skills of deduction. Dupin appears in two more of Poe’s stories.
- A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler (also titled The Mask of Dimitrios). Charles Latimer is a mystery novelist becomes intrigued by a dead man’s past, which leads to dangerous consequences. The story is described as a hybrid of “spy thriller” and “detective noir.”  There is a sequel, The Intercom Conspiracy.
- The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. This is a “quintessential Gothic romance,” with a young heroine in both physical and psychological danger. Austen, Poe, and others were heavily influenced by Radcliffe. 
- The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. “Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, [it] is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.” 
That’s all for this week. Check back next week as I do my best to turn up some unexpected finds, and explore the success of women authors in this genre. Don’t forget to share your favorites (especially classics) in the comments below!
* A line you will recognize from either The Importance of Being Earnest or Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, depending on your tastes.
By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department
On more than one occasion, usually to no discernible effect whatsoever, I’ve admonished my own children as well as library patrons for seeing the movie before they read the book. I can’t do that with the titles in this blog, for the simple reason that a different medium preceded the book; to wit, this is a list of children’s books that were inspired by rock, pop, or folk songs. Turn it up, y’all . . .
It was immediately clear to me which book/song I wanted to start this blog with, for a couple of reasons. Bob Marley, the enigmatic and often misunderstood Jamaican singer-songwriter who achieved international acclaim before his untimely death from cancer at the age of 36, has long held a spot in my heart. His daughter Cedella has written five books to date, all based upon or inspired by her iconic father’s life and music. One Love and Every Little Thing (J E MARLEY) are both delightfully inspirational, and emphasize how one person can make a difference in this world, and that of course “every little thing is gonna be alright.”
Next up on my songs-to-books list is another transformative song that was also written and published in an era of revolution, war, and enormous historical and cultural changes to the American landscape. “What A Wonderful World,” written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss and recorded by Louis Armstrong, was not initially a hit in the United States; it sold fewer than 1,000 copies because the president of ABC Records did not like the song and therefore did not promote it, but was a major success in the United Kingdom, reaching number one on the UK Singles Chart in 1967. The eponymous children’s book illustrated by Tim Hopgood (J E HOPGOOD) is just as sweet, hopeful, and uplifting as the song. (Author’s note: my very favorite writer of books for grownups, Michael Connelly, takes inspiration from this song for his complex protagonist Harry Bosch, and his next novel is entitled Dark Sacred Night, which is of course a line from this beautiful song.)
The brave and persistent Itsy Bitsy Spider from the children’s finger-play nursery rhyme is back, and on an even bolder adventure in this charming book written and illustrated by Iza Trapani (J E TRAPANI). She manages to survive encounters with a fan, a mouse, a rocking chair, a cat, and a gigantic maple tree, and is finally able to build her web and relax. Trapani’s rich watercolor illustrations and playful rhythm transform this simple song into a delightful journey to be enjoyed again and again.
Also from the fabulous Iza Trapani is her brilliantly illustrated Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (J E Trapani). While we have several different versions of the song-to-book rendition of this sweet little song, Iza’s is far and away the best of the bunch. (Pete the Cat’s version comes in second, because I love him so.) Just as in Itsy Bitsy Spider, this modern spin on the traditional classic will yield many hours of reading pleasure.
Last on this list is Puff, the Magic Dragon (J E YARROW) by Peter Yarrow, an American singer-songwriter who was one-third of the 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. Yarrow once said, “Puff has appeared to me both childlike and wise, a king but also a willing follower of just about any bright spirit that inspired him. Puff gives his whole heart and soul to one special friend…One day, as you can see at the end of this book, a new and special friend comes to Honalee…In this way Puff and Jackie’s friendship continues through new children like you.” Both Yarrow and co-writer Leonard Lipton have adamantly and repeatedly stated that “Puff the Magic Dragon is not about drugs.” He has also said of the song that it “never had any meaning other than the obvious one” and is about the “loss of innocence in children,” and dismissed the suggestion of association with drugs as “sloppy research.” So, disregard that urban legend. The book is comprised solely of the lyrics to the song with no additional text, but the lush illustrations imply a new twist to the sad final stanza.
Come visit the rock star librarians at WCPL to check out these and many more music-related titles to enjoy during our Summer Reading Program—which is not coincidentally themed “Libraries Rock!” Happy Reading—
Librarian by day, aspiring fiction writer by night, and enthusiast of rock and roll 24/7/365, the author lives with her two children and four cats, not all of whom share her taste in music.
By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
April was National Humor Month. (Remember our April Fool’s Day Prank?) To celebrate, we put together a great selection of books – both fiction and nonfiction – that fit the theme. In case you missed it, we’re sharing that book list here. We hope you’ll find a book to make you laugh all year long!
- Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh, (792.7028092 BRO)
- Yes, Please by Amy Poehler, (92 POEHLER)
- Life’s a Stitch: the Best of Contemporary Women’s Humor by Anne Safran Dalin, ed., (817.608 LIF)
- Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, (92 BURROUGHS)
- The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an America in Britain by Bill Bryson, (914.1048612 BRY)
- In Such Good Company: 11 Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox by Carol Burnett, (791.4572 BUR)
- Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore, (F MOO)
- Walking Across Egypt by Clyde Edgerton, (F EDG)
- Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, (814.54 SED)
- This Is a Book by Demetri Martin, 817.6 MAR
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, (F ADA)
- Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams, (F ADA)
- I Could Pee on This: and Other Poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano, (811.6 MAR)
- Being Dead Is No Excuse: the Official Southern Ladies’ Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral by Gayden Metcalfe, (393.097633 MET)
- Reasons My Kid Is Crying by Greg Pembroke, (818.5407 PEM)
- Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding, (F FIE)
- The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae, (92 RAE)
- The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde, (F FFO)
- The Eyre Affaire by Jasper Fforde, (F FFO)
- Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan, (814.6 GAF)
- How to Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen, (814.54 FRA)
- Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg, (818.602 ORT)
- The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain, (914.04286 TWA)
- Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon, (F CHA)
- Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling, (92 KALING)
- High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, F HOR
- I Feel Bad About My Neck: and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron, (814.54 EPH)
- I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections by Nora Ephron, (817.54 EPH)
- The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table by Oliver Wendell Holmes, (814.3 HOL)
- The Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse, (F WOD)
- Holidays in Heck by P. J. O’Rourke, (818.5402 ORO)
- How to Make Your Baby an Internet Celebrity by Rick Chillot, (818 CHI)
- Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, (F GIB)
- I Am America (And so Can You!) by Stephen Colbert, (818 COL)
- Midnight Confessions by Stephen Colbert, (818.602 COL)
- Maskerade: a Novel of Discworld by Terry Pratchett, (F PRA)
- Bossypants by Tina Fey, (92 FEY)
- Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins, (F ROB)
- Night Thoughts by Wallace Shawn, (814.54 SHA)
- The Princess Bride by William Goldman, (F GOL)
- The Bear Went over the Mountain by William Kotzwinkle, (F KOT)
- White Teeth by Zadie Smith, (F SMI)
By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
Being a lover of memoir and “the classics” (think, “books you were forced to read in high school”), I’ve felt comfortable referring to those categories in previous blog posts. But when I saw the colorful genre bookmarks we have at the library – check them out on your next visit!–, I felt inspired to explore some authors I’ve never read before.
One genre I’m pretty unfamiliar with is Urban Fantasy, so I thought I’d start there, and every research trip begins with a visit to Wikipedia, doesn’t it (just don’t tell your teachers)? From there, I gathered these elements of the Urban Fantasy subgenre (1):
- A primarily real-world, urban setting, in the past, present or future
- Earthbound mythological creatures (sometimes)
- Coexistence / conflict between humans and paranormal beings (some other times)
- Often explores how city life changes after the discovery of magic
- Does not rely primarily on a romantic plot (as distinct from Paranormal Romance subgenre)
This sounds like many of the bestsellers and blockbusters in the past couple of decades! So who are the storytellers behind this enduring pop culture phenomenon?
Even I, in my ignorance, recognize the name Neil Gaiman halfway down the list on the bright yellow bookmark before me. His novel, American Gods, is a prime example of the genre. In it, Gaiman posits that “gods and mythological creatures exist because people believe in them.” (2) Therefore, in modern America, new gods – representing media, the internet, and the stock market, among others – have more authority than the old gods brought over by immigrants; and fantastical creatures hold commonplace occupations. But a mysterious man wishes to shake things up, and he needs the help of ex-con Shadow to rouse ancient powers. A strange, epic journey, with elements of horror, fantasy, and magical realism, this award-winning novel has an international fan base.
Neil Gaiman, and indeed the genre of Urban Fantasy, would not be where they are today without Terri Windling. She created the Bordertown universe, tales of which have been written by a multitude of authors. Bordertown is “a dystopian metropolis that lies along the border between “the Elflands” and “The World”.” (3) The tagline on some of the book covers reads, “Where Magic Meets Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which I find charming. As one reader puts it, “the aesthetic of Celtic punk rock, elf/human gang warfare, and glamorous urban decay absolutely succeeds. You can understand why this series inspired its own new wave/nerd subculture back in the eighties.” (4)
Interestingly, 57% of writers in this genre are women. (1) Another such writer who caught my eye was Patricia Briggs, with her Mercy Thompson series. Mercy is a shapeshifting mechanic who was raised by werewolves. She interacts with vampires, gremlins, and other creatures of the night. Ignore the sexy artwork on the book covers: this is not a steamy series, but rather one with compelling dialogue and a strong, sensitive female lead. There are plenty of books in this series, starting with Moon Called.
I’d like to leave you with some more author recommendations, which is a hard thing to do as I haven’t actually read any of them. But thank goodness for those bookmarks, and for Goodreads.com, a great resource for book lists and reader reviews. Searching Goodreads by genre, I found that there are some Urban Fantasy authors whose books have been reviewed by community members hundreds of thousands of times! (Side note: If you find a reviewer whose taste matches your own, you can follow him/her on the site. It’s like having your own personal book critic who delivers tailored book recommendations.)
- Charlaine Harris – Sookie Stackhouse series (AKA the Southern Vampire Mysteries). These books are the source material for HBO’s True Blood.
- Jim Butcher – The Dresden Files Harry Dresden is Chicago’s first and only wizard P.I. This series is the Urban Fantasy high standard for many reviewers.
- Kelley Armstrong – Darkest Powers A genetically-engineered teenage necromancer’s powers are out of control: she raises the dead without even trying. On the run from her creators, she’s accompanied by a sorcerer, a werewolf, and a witch.
- Seanan McGuire – Wayward Children Children who have gone through magical portals – like Wonderland’s rabbit hole, or Narnia’s wardrobe – find it hard to adjust to normal life once they return. Luckily, there’s a home just for them.
- Kevin Hearne – The Iron Druid Chronicles. The last of the druids runs a bookshop in Arizona, but that won’t throw an angry god off the trail of his magic sword. Celtic mythology meets vampires, werewolves, and Thor. Yes, this series definitely has a silly edge to it, but reviewers say it’s a lot of fun!
- Holly Black – The Poison Eaters and Other Stories. Elves, werewolves, vampires, faeries: whatever your creature obsession, there’s a short story for you in this YA/adult collection from the author of popular middle-grade series The Spiderwick Chronicles.
- Terry Brooks – Word & Void There’s been a long strike in a steel town, and it’s the hottest Fourth of July on record. Into this volatile atmosphere come a knight of the Word and a demonic servant of the Void, whose opposing goals are mysteriously linked by a teenage girl. The fate of humanity is to be decided amidst the fireworks that celebrate freedom.
- Ilona Andrews – Kate Daniels Magic feeds on technology, creating a chaotic backdrop for tales of a mercenary who lives in Atlanta, cleaning up paranormal problems.
I plan to broaden my literary horizons by adding a couple of these to my reading list. If I abandon my classics and only ever write about Urban Fantasy from now on, you’ll know what triggered it!
- Neil Gaiman’s American Gods Fan Art by DeviantArt user AnamikaB, https://anamikab.deviantart.com/art/Neil-Gaiman-s-American-Gods-Fan-Art-346033119
- The Dresden Files by DeviantArt user Mika-Blackfield, https://mika-blackfield.deviantart.com/art/The-Dresden-Files-575902031
By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department
Our juvenile graphic novel section is very well loved here at WCPL. Kids can’t seem to read enough of them. However, their favorites are often checked out, and while this is a fantastic problem to have, we hate to see kids leave disappointed and empty handed. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a brief list of readalikes for some of our most popular graphic novels.
If you can’t get enough Calvin and Hobbes…
Try Phoebe and Her Unicorn!
Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson (J 741.5973 SIM) is a weekly comic strip about a precocious nine-year-old girl named Phoebe and her best friend Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, a unicorn. Their adventures begin when Phoebe skips a rock and accidentally hits a Marigold Heavenly Nostrils in the face. Improbably, this led to Phoebe being granted one wish, and she used it to make the unicorn her obligational best friend. With seven volumes and counting, kids will be reading and laughing about Phoebe and Marigold’s wacky and hilarious antics as long as they like.
If you absolutely love Smile and Sisters…
Try Surfside Girls: The Secret of Danger Point, Pashmina, and Cici’s Journal!
In Surfside Girls: The Secret of Danger Point by Kim Dwinell ( J 741.5973 DWI), things are getting very weird for Samantha. Lately, her best friend Jade explodes into fits of giggles whenever she sees a boy, and it’s throwing a wrench into the laidback summer of surfing and hanging out that Sam had planned. But after swimming through a secret underwater cave, Sam starts to see things. Like ghosts. And pirates. And maybe something even scarier! Can she and Jade get to the bottom of this mystery in time to save their town?
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani (J 741.5973 CHA) is the story of Priyanka Das, who has so many unanswered questions about her mother and about India. For Pri, her mother’s homeland can only exist in her imagination. That is, until she find a mysterious pashmina tucked away in a forgotten suitcase. When she wraps herself in it, she is transported to a place more vivid and colorful than any guidebook or Bollywood film. But is this the real India? And what is that shadow lurking in the background? To learn the truth, Pri must travel farther than she’s ever dared and find the family she never knew.
Translated from French, Cici dreams of being a novelist in Cici’s Journal by Joris Chamblain (J 741.5973 CHA). Her favorite subject is people, especially adults. She’s been watching them and taking notes. Everybody has one special secret, Cici figures, and if you want to write about people, you need to understand what’s hiding inside them. But now she’s discovered something truly strange: an old man who disappears into the forest every Sunday with huge pots of paint in all sorts of colors. What is he up to? Why does he look so sad when he comes back?
If you think Narwhal and Jelly is delightful….
Try The Great Pet Escape,Cici, A Fairy’s Tale, and Brobots and the Kaiju Kerfluffle!
In The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson (J 741.5973 JAM), the class pets at Daisy P. Flugelhorn Elementary School want out, and G.W.—short for George Washington—the deceptively cute hamster in the second-grade classroom, is just the guy to lead the way. But when he finally escapes and goes to find his former partners in crime, Barry and Biter, he finds that they actually LIKE being class pets! Just as G.W. gets Barry and Biter to agree to leave with him, a mouse named Harriet and her many mouse minions get in their way.
A lot is changing for Cici in Believe Your Eyes, the first book in Cici, A Fairy’s Tale by Cori Doerrfield (J 741.5973 DOE). Her parents are separating, her wacky abuela is moving in, and on her tenth birthday, she wakes up with fairy wings! Cici’s new magical powers let her see people as they truly are, but what she learns about her friends and family isn’t always easy to accept. She has only one day to decide whether to keep her wings. When Cici wishes life could just be normal again, will she choose to believe in the power of fairies?
Brobots and the Kaiju Kerfluffle by J. Torres (J 741.5973 TOR) begins with robot brothers Panchi, Joukei, and Kouro reeling in a “big one” while fishing. When the giant threatens to demolish their city, the three bro-up and spring into action!
If you like Hilo…
Try Cosmic Commandos, Dream Jumper, and Fish Girl!
In Cosmic Commandos by Christopher Eliopoulos (J 741.5973 ELI), Jeremy and Justin are twins, but they couldn’t be any more different from each other. They both love video games, however, and when Jeremy wins a cereal-box charm that brings his favorite video game to life, villains and all, he finds that he’s in way over his head. Can these two mismatched brothers work together to beat the video game that has taken over their life?
Dream Jumper: Nightmare Escape by Greg Grunberg (J 741.5973 GRU) is the story of Ben, who has the ability to jump into other people’s dreams. So when his friends start falling victim to an evil dream-monster that prevents them from waking, Ben knows he has to help them. But can he get to them in time? With a mysterious companion, Ben might just be able to defeat the monster and save his friends…if he can figure out how to use the power within him.
Fish Girl by Donna Jo Napoli (J 741.5973 NAP) begins with a show at Ocean Wonders, an aquarium filled with several ocean animals and Fish Girl, the elusive star attraction. When Fish Girl has a chance encounter with an ordinary girl, their growing friendship inspires Fish Girl’s longing for freedom, independence, and a life beyond the aquarium tank.
If you need more action-packed adventures like Amulet…
Try Red’s Planet, Clem Hetherington and the Ironwood Race, and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur!
Red’s Planet by Eddie Pittman (J 741.5973 PIT) is the story of Red, who longs to live in her own perfect paradise far away from her annoying foster family. But when a UFO mistakenly kidnaps her, Red finds herself farther away than she could have possibly imagined—across the galaxy and aboard an enormous spaceship owned by the Aquilari, an ancient creature with a taste for rare and unusual treasures. Before Red can be discovered as a stowaway, the great ship crashes on a small deserted planet, leaving her marooned with a menagerie of misfit aliens. With her newfound friend, a small gray alien named Tawee, Red must find a way to survive the hostile castaways, evade the ravenous wildlife and contend with Goose, the planet’s grumpy, felinoid custodian. Surely this can’t be the paradise she’s looking for.
In Clem Hetherington and the Ironwood Race by Jen Breach (J 741.5973 BRE), Clementine Hetherington and her robot brother, Digory, have run away from the orphanage they’ve been living in since their parents died. Clem and Dig want to follow in their famous archaeologist mother’s footsteps, but no one will take them seriously. Their chance arrives when a man from their past saves Digory’s life, and to repay the debt, they enter a multiday race to recover stolen artifacts! Clem and Dig hope to win so they can give the artifacts to a museum, but their opponents want to sell them on the black market. The Ironwood Race has no rules, and Clem and Dig might be in over their heads!
The first volume in the Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur comic series by Brandon Montclare (J 741.5973 MON) introduces Lunella Lafayette, a preteen genius living in mortal fear of her latent inhuman gene. There’s no telling what she’ll turn into, but Lunella’s got a plan. All she needs is an Omni-Wave Projector. Easy, right? That is, until a red-scaled beast is teleported from the prehistoric past to a far-flung future we call today! Together they’re the most Marvelous Team-Up of all — the Inhuman Moon Girl and time-tossed Devil Dinosaur! But will they be BFFs forever, or just until DD’s dinner time? And Lunella soon learns that there are other problems with having a titanic T. Rex as a pet in the modern-day Marvel Universe. School, for one. Monster hunters are another—especially when they’re the Totally Awesome Hulk! Then there’s the fact that everyone’s favorite dino didn’t journey through time alone. Beware the prehistoric savages known as the Killer-Folk—New York City’s deadliest tourists! Can Lunella handle all this turmoil and keep herself from transforming into an inhuman monster?
If Dog Man makes you laugh your pants off…
Try Making Scents, Cucumber Quest: The Doughnut Kingdom, and Catstronauts!
Mickey isn’t quite like his brothers and sisters in Making Scents by Arthur Yorinks (J 741.5973 YOR). They’re all stronger, faster, and have a much better sense of smell. That’s because his “brothers and sisters” are dogs―bloodhounds, to be exact. Mickey’s mom and dad are crazy about canines. Their dogs are the loves of their lives and their livelihood. So, naturally, they’re raising their son as if he was a dog, and Mickey wants nothing more than to make his parents proud. Just as Mickey is mastering the art of sniffing, a tragic accident forever changes his happy family. Mickey is sent to live with relatives he’s never met―relatives who are not fond of kids . . . and who hate dogs!
In The Doughnut Kingdom, the first book in the Cucumber Quest series by Gigi D.G. (J 741.5973 GIG), the seven kingdoms of Dreamside need a legendary hero. Instead, they’ll have to settle for Cucumber, a nerdy magician who just wants to go to school. As destiny would have it, he and his way more heroic sister, Almond, must now seek the Dream Sword, the only weapon powerful enough to defeat Queen Cordelia’s Nightmare Knight. Can these bunny siblings really save the world in its darkest hour? Sure, why not?
CatStronauts: Mission Moon by Drew Brockington (J 741.5973 BRO) begins with the world being thrust into darkness due to a global energy shortage. The World’s Best Scientist quickly comes up with a bold plan to set up a solar power plant on the moon. But someone has to go up there to set it up, and that adventure falls to the CatStronauts, the best space cats on the planet! Meet the fearless commander Major Meowser, brave-but-hungry pilot Waffles, genius technician and inventor Blanket, and quick thinking science officer Pom Pom on their most important mission yet!
As always, you can put any of these on hold through our website, and once your kids plow through these, our children’s librarians are ready to recommend even more titles!