By Howard Shirley, Teen Department
Sharks with frickin’ lasers for eyes. (Yes, that’s a thing.)
What do these have in common?
Sharks, you say?
They always come out on Shark Week?
Okay, yes, that too. But keep going.
They’re really, really silly ideas for monsters?
Bingo! Winner, winner, monster dinner!
Sharks in a tornado? A cross between a shark and an octopus (which really isn’t that scary a beast, unless you’re a clam)? A giant shark (okay, yes there did use to be these megalodons)? And laser eyes? What are they, sharks from Krypton?
Okay, they’re all fine as a doodle on the side of your algebra homework (which you really need to finish; it’s due tomorrow). But let’s be honest they’re kind of, well, dumb.
But they’re not the dumbest ideas ever for monsters. And the truth is, dumb monsters can be a lot of fun.
Dumb combination monsters go back a long way. The ancient Egyptians believed in jackal-headed men, crocodile-headed men, cat-headed women, and of course the original sphinx, with a man’s head on a lion’s body. The Phoenicians gave us a man with the body of a fish. But the Greeks topped them all. One-eyed giant (cyclops), men with the bodies of horses, the chimera with the heads of a dragon, a lion and a goat, the medusa with snakes for a hairdo (maybe she got all stone-faced because she couldn’t do anything with it), a man with the head of a bull, men with goat legs, a man with a hundred eyes, and worse.
But it seems every age has its bizarre combos. The Middle Ages gave us the unicorn and mermaids, and things went so bizarre in the Renaissance that travelogues seriously suggested there were men with their faces in their stomachs (talk about fast food).
Today we know that’s all nonsense. Unless, of course, you believe in Nessie, Champie, Bigfoot, Mothman (no kidding), Yetis (no, not the coolers), Chupacabras, the Jersey Devil, and human-faced goats (okay, that last one is bizarrely real)! And, of course, aliens.
Why do we create these monsters? Is it to explain, to entertain, to scare, or just because we can? That’s a question for another article, but at the library, we like ‘em all. So if you want to “check out” some monsters on your own, here are a few of our favorite literary monster mish-mashes:
Miss Erin’s Picks:
- Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black. With a title like that, you know it’s gonna be epic!
- Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend by Alan Cumyn. Because nothing says “hunk” like a dude who’s also a dinosaur.
- Zombie Blondes by Brian James. Mean girls are so much meaner when they’re undead.
- A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz, featuring fairies maimed by the cannibalistic gnomes who work for them (“Call it a tax.”), and a revolution and, well, what more do you need to know? Read the rest for yourself!
Mr. Howard’s Picks:
- The Dragonback series by Timothy Zahn, featuring an alien dragon poet-warrior who’s also a living tattoo. Starting with Dragon and Thief, this sci-fi action series is part Star Wars, part mystery, and part coming-of-age tale, and all terrific.
- Squirrel Girl, from The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl graphic novels. Okay, not a monster, but a superheroine with the combined powers of a squirrel and a girl, which turns out to be awesome. And yes, she can beat anyone, even the most powerful villains of the Marvel Universe. Take that, Galactus.
- The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey, being the purported memoirs of an assistant to a 19th century monster hunter who hunts down the “those can’t be real” monsters of fable (including those “face in their stomach” guys). Scary, realistic, and very intense, Yancey pulls off turning nonsensical creatures into a horrific threat. And then does it again in two more books in the series!
- The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, by Terry Pratchett, seems like a light, funny fantasy “con game” story… until the legendary “Rat King” monstrosity enters the picture, in a sequence that will have you looking over your shoulder with every word.
- The Hungry Cities Chronicles, beginning with Mortal Engines, by Phillip Reeve, which has the best mash-up ever: a city and a tank. Okay, no that’s not a monster, but actual cities on tank treads that gobble up other cities? How could your inner monster-mashup muscle not love that? Just because it’s mechanical, doesn’t mean it’s not a monster!
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. The President of the Galaxy, who’s also a starship thief, has two heads. And he’s one of the more normal monstrosities the hapless British hero meets in this over-the-top scifi laugh fest.
Or come by the Teen Room and peruse our Dungeons & Dragons manuals, ‘cause nothing says ridiculous monster mash- up like an Owlbear. (Yes, it’s a bear. That’s also an owl! Oooo, scary!) Unless it’s a Gelatinous Cube, which is, uh, basically acidic Jello. Shaped like a giant cube. That moves.
Sharknado, you’ve got nothing on us!
By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department
My childhood was largely influenced by my obsession with Harry Potter. I spent far too much of my time writing and reading Harry Potter fanfiction, having analytical discussions with strangers on Harry Potter forums, and creating perfect Harry Potter costumes. I even took a fantasy lit class in college just because Harry Potter was on the syllabus. Embarrassing confessions aside, Harry Potter helped me through some difficult experiences and taught me lots of life lessons along the way. Needless to say, I was devastated when I finished the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, less than twenty-four hours after I’d waited in line at midnight to secure a copy. I just knew that I would never find another book to love like I loved Harry Potter.
So in honor of the tenth anniversary of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I bring you read-a-likes! This list of recommendations is for you, Harry Potter lovers of all ages. I know they won’t be the same, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them.
The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (J F BLACK)
Warned away from magic all of his life, Callum endeavors to fail the trials that would admit him to the Magisterium only to be drawn into its ranks against his will and forced to confront dark elements from his past.
The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann (J F MCMANN)
In a society that purges thirteen-year-olds who are creative, identical twins Aaron and Alex are separated, one to attend University while the other, supposedly Eliminated, finds himself in a wondrous place where kids hone their abilities and learn magic.
Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood (J F LITTLEWOOD)
Twelve-year-old Rose Bliss wants to work magic in her family’s bakery as her parents do, but when they are called away and Rose and her siblings are left in charge, the magic goes awry and a beautiful stranger tries to talk Rose into giving her the Bliss Cookery Booke.
Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull (J F MULL)
Whisked through a portal to The Outskirts, an in-between world, sixth-grader Cole must rescue his friends and find his way back home–before his existence is forgotten.
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (J F CHAINANI)
At the School for Good and Evil, failing your fairy tale is not an option. Best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. With her glass slippers and devotion to good deeds, Sophie knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and join the ranks of past students like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks and wicked black cat, seems a natural fit for the villains in the School for Evil. The two girls soon find their fortunes reversed–Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School for Good, thrust among handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (YA F MAAS)
Celaena Sardothien is an assassin serving a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, and she is summoned to the castle; not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king’s champion. But when competitors start dying one by one, her fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (YA F BARDUGO)
Orphaned by the Border Wars, Alina Starkov is taken from obscurity and her only friend, Mal, to become the protegé of the mysterious Darkling, who trains her to join the magical elite in the belief that she is the Sun Summoner, who can destroy the monsters of the Fold.
The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (J F FLANAGAN)
Fifteen-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (YA F TAHIR)
Laia is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.
Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older (YA F OLDER)
When the murals painted on the walls of her Brooklyn neighborhood start to change and fade in front of her, Sierra Santiago realizes that something strange is going on–then she discovers her Puerto Rican family are shadowshapers and finds herself in a battle with an evil anthropologist for the lives of her family and friends.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (F MORGENSTERN)
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. Behind the scenes, two young magicians prepare for a duel that they have been trained for since childhood. Despite themselves, the duo fall in love, but what they don’t know is that this game can only leave one standing.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman (F GROSSMAN)
Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A high school math genius, he’s secretly fascinated with a series of children’s fantasy novels set in a magical land called Fillory, and real life is disappointing by comparison. When Quentin is unexpectedly admitted to an elite, secret college of magic, it looks like his wildest dreams have come true. But his newfound powers lead him down a rabbit hole of hedonism and disillusionment, and ultimately to the dark secret behind the story of Fillory. The land of his childhood fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he ever could have imagined.
The Passage by Justin Cronin (F CRONIN)
The latest test subject in a covert government experiment, abandoned six-year-old Amy is rescued by an FBI agent who hides them in the Oregon hills, from which Amy emerges a century later to save the human race from a terrifying virus.
Storm Front by Jim Butcher (F BUTCHER)
For Harry Dresden—Chicago’s only professional wizard—business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it.
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (F HARKNESS)
Witch and Yale historian Diana Bishop discovers an enchanted manuscript, attracting the attention of 1,500-year-old vampire Matthew Clairmont. The orphaned daughter of two powerful witches, Bishop prefers intellect, but relies on magic when her discovery of a palimpsest documenting the origin of supernatural species releases an assortment of undead who threaten, stalk, and harass her.
By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department
Celebrated annually during the month of June, National Zoo and Aquarium Month honors the role of zoos and aquariums in conservation, education, recreation, and research. The best way to celebrate National Zoo and Aquarium Month is obvious: Visit your local zoo or aquarium, of course! But if you can’t do that, here’s a list of books to bring all the fun of the zoo right into your living room.
Worms for Breakfast: How to Feed a Zoo by Helaine Becker
(J 636.0889 BEC)
Feeding time is one of the most popular events at zoos. But what do different animals eat? How much food to they need to stay healthy? And where do zookeepers get all that food anyway? Packed with facts from experts at zoos and aquariums, Worms for Breakfast answers all these questions and more! And just in case reading about feeding time makes you hungry, this book also includes recipes for meals like eucalyptus leaf pesto, kelp tank goulash, and mealworm mush.
Bridge to the Wild: Behind the Scenes at the Zoo by Caitlin O’Connell
(J 636.088 O’CON)
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work in a zoo? Written by a real animal researcher with special behind-the-scenes access, Bridge to the Wild goes inside Zoo Atlanta. Readers learn about the people who work with the animals and discover exactly how zoos help world populations of animals.
My Visit to the Aquarium by Aliki
(J 597.0074 ALI)
Take a trip to the aquarium in My Visit to the Aquarium! Based on several specific aquariums, this book follows a young boy through a kelp forest, a muggy tropical rainforest, a coral reef, and other various exhibits.
Fur, Fins, and Feathers: Abraham Dee Bartlett and the Invention of the Modern Zoo by Cassandre Maxwell
(J 92 BARTLETT)
When Abraham Dee Bartlett was growing up during the early 1800s, there were no zoos, only indoor menageries, where animals were kept inside small, bare cages with no room to explore and nothing to play with. This picture book biography tells young readers how Bartlett became superintendent of the London Zoo and dramatically improved conditions to ensure that all animals could be happy and healthy.
What’s New? The Zoo!: A Zippy History of Zoos by Kathleen Krull
(J 590.73 KRU)
Beginning 4,400 years ago, this title takes readers on a journey throughout history and around the globe tracing the history of zoos.
A Day at a Zoo by Sarah Harrison
(J 590.73 HAR)
In eight action-packed scenes from the same view, A Day at a Zoo invites readers to see what happens during a full day at a busy zoo. Watch as zookeepers wrangle a new okapi, a gibbon escapes its enclosure, and schoolchildren hide in the meerkat pen.
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 Stacy Parish, Children’s Department
In honor of this year’s inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 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 Katy Searcy, Children’s Department
Yep, it’s that time of year again! It’s time for shamrocks, pots of gold, green, and a tall Guinness. Okay, so that last one isn’t entirely appropriate for the whole family. Luckily, I have fourteen books perfect for celebrating with your kids on this St. Patrick’s Day!
That’s What Leprechauns Do by Eve Bunting (J E BUN)
As a storm approaches, three leprechauns get ready to go to work. Their job? Placing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, of course! “No mischief, no mischief along the way,” they chant. But they just can’t help themselves from pulling a few pranks because “that’s what leprechauns do.”
The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day by Natasha Wing (J E WIN)
In this Irish twist on “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” it’s the night before St. Patrick’s Day, and Tim and Maureen are awake setting traps for a leprechaun. The next morning, they’re shocked to find a leprechaun in their trap, but will they be able to find his gold?
St. Patrick’s Day by Gail Gibbons (J 394.268 GIB)
Introduce young ones to the origins of St. Patrick’s Day with this nonfiction picture book about the life and works of St. Patrick and the various ways the holiday is celebrated.
The Luckiest St. Patrick’s Day Ever! by Teddy Slater (J E SLA)
Follow the Leprechaun family on their favorite day of the year as celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a parade, dancing, music, and an Irish feast!
S is for Shamrock: An Ireland Alphabet by Eve Bunting (J 941.5 BUN)
From the Blarney Stone to fairy rings to shamrocks, take an A to Z tour of Ireland in this nonfiction title.
St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning by Eve Bunting (J E BUN)
Set in a village in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, Jamie, the youngest in his family, is too small to walk in the big parade. Disappointed, he wakes up early and sets out to prove them wrong.
Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato by Tomie dePaola (J E DEP)
In this Irish folktale, potato farmer Jamie O’Rourke—“the laziest man in all of Ireland”—convinces himself he’ll starve to death after his wife hurts her back doing all the household and garden chores. When Jamie catches a leprechaun who offers a magical potato seed instead of a pot of gold in exchange for his freedom, the resulting gigantic potato feeds the O’Rourkes and their village longer than imagined.
Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola (J E DEP)
In this nonfiction selection, readers are introduced to the life of St. Patrick and several different legends about him.
Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk by Gerald McDermott (J E MCD)
Tim O’Toole and his wife, Kathleen, are so poor that their neighbors avoid them, fearing their bad luck will rub off. When Tim goes out to find a job, he happens upon the “wee folk,” and they give him gifts to turn his luck around.
Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman (J CD E BAT)
The greedy leprechaun king has locked away all the luck in Ireland to keep it from the “big folk” who were soaking it all up. Unfortunately, he went too far, and Ireland suffered its worst luck ever through the potato famine. Thankfully, a young woman named Fiona is clever enough to outsmart the leprechaun king and restore luck to all of Ireland.
The Leprechaun’s Gold by Pamela Duncan Edwards (J E EDW)
In this Irish legend, two harpists—kind Old Pat and mean Young Tom—set off for a contest to determine the best harpist in all of Ireland. When greedy Young Tom realizes Old Pat is actually a better musician, he plots against his older counterpart, even going so far as to pluck the strings off poor Old Pat’s harp. However, Young Tom doesn’t plan on a leprechaun intervening on Old Pat’s behalf.
Finn McCool and the Great Fish by Eve Bunting (J E BUN)
Finn McCool is the “best-hearted man that ever walked on Ireland’s green grass.” But for all his strength, courage, and goodness, there’s one thing Finn lacks: he’s just not smart. When a wise man in a nearby village tells Finn about a red salmon with the wisdom of the world, he sets out to catch the fish and discover the “secret of wisdom.”
Brave Margaret by Robert D. San Souci (J E SAN)
When a ship carrying a handsome prince arrives in the harbor, Margaret seizes her chance to see the world. But soon she is faced with storms and sea serpents, and eventually finds herself held captive by an elderly sorceress who refuses to let her go unless she can defeat the evil giant at a nearby castle. When her prince is killed fighting the giant, Margaret discovers she is the intended champion of an enchanted sword.
St. Patrick’s Day by Anne Rockwell (J E ROC)
Join Mrs. Madoff’s class as they learn about St. Patrick’s Day traditions!
So read a book this St. Patrick’s Day! After all, isn’t knowledge is better than all the pots of gold at the end of the rainbow?
by Howard Shirley, Teen Department
It’s Teen Tech Week, and to celebrate we consulted a panel of teen readers about their favorite techy stories, featuring fantastic technology they wish was real, and creepy technology they’d rather never see. And then we rounded out the whole thing by selecting a few books we love featuring tech both real and imaginary—as well as tech you may someday create yourself!
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Ender’s Game begins after humanity has barely survived a genocidal war against technically advanced alien invaders, and Earth fears that race’s eventual return. The last invasion was defeated almost solely by the action of one heroic military officer, and the leaders of Earth are desperate to create soldiers who can mimic that hero’s instinctive skill. Potential candidates are selected as children and trained in an orbiting military academy, featuring a recreational battle game, sort of a cross between laser tag and Red Rover, played in zero-gravity inside a huge sphere. The eventual victors of this tournament, led by the novel’s young hero, Ender, also train in a complex computer simulator, learning to command the space fleet that must confront and destroy the enemy—with unexpected results. Our panel of teens loved the idea of the battle game in its weightless environment, as well as the computer simulator.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
For creepy tech, our teens brought up the Divergent series and the technology used in the novels to identify and control the members of a dystopian future society. At sixteen, everyone is divided by law into five distinct factions, ostensibly chosen by the individual. The choice, however, is influenced by a complex personality test run in a virtual reality environment, which uses the individual’s personal fears to direct that choice. Secretly, one of the factions develops a serum that allows them to use the VR tech to control the minds of others and launch a bloody coup. “Divergent” refers to those who can’t be easily regimented by the VR test and who can recognize the VR world as not being actual reality, thus becoming immune to the effects of the mind-control. Everyone agreed that this sort of technology was one they’d never want to see come into reality.
Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama
This popular manga (Japanese comic book series), features another dystopian setting, where humanity has been reduced to a tiny population living in an immense walled city to protect itself from roving, gigantic “Titans” whose only apparent desire is to eat humans. The warriors assigned to defend humanity are equipped with “vertical mobility devices,” which are arrow-tipped grappling hooks fired by gas canisters. The cables allow the warriors to swing through city, forests, and even from the Titans themselves, “just like Spiderman” as our teen panel put it. The soldiers also use flexible swords which are the only weapons capable of killing the monstrous Titans. The blades, however, are destroyed when they strike a Titan, and the hilts must be reloaded from a supply cartridge worn like a scabbard at the warrior’s waist. Our teen panel loved the idea of being able to swing through the air with the grappling-hook harnesses, and who doesn’t love a techy sword?
Our teen panel then rounded out the discussion with recommendations for books and videos featuring Doctor Who—because TIME TRAVEL! (Which is hard to beat as tech goes.)
Our Honorary Best Book for Teen Tech Week:
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua
Part part non-fiction, part fiction, this highly amusing and intelligent graphic novel tells the adventures of (the real) Lady Ada Lovelace and (the also real) Charles Babbage in an “alternate pocket universe;” the alternate part being that the two actually build the invention they collaborated on in real life—the fabulous Analytical Engine, a steam-powered Victorian-era computer! If you’ve ever wondered what the Steampunk phenomena is all about, these two historical persons are at the heart of it. (As one of the book’s characters quips about the pair, “Oh look, we’re present for the invention of the geek.”) The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage mixes silly adventures and fabulous Victorian engineering with real history about the development of computing, programming languages, and a dash of women’s rights, all nearly a century before anyone made the first computer chip. If you love steampunk, history, computers or just laughing out loud about any of them, there’s no better book to grab for Teen Tech Week.
Other Teen Tech books in our collection include:
Time Travel Tech (because Doctor Who!)
- Loop by Karen Akins
- Hourglass series by Myra McEntire
- The Time Machine by HG Wells (the father of them all)
- Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz
- Gallagher Academy series by Ally Carter
- The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp Series by Rick Yancey
- Feed by MT Anderson
- The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyers
- Blue Screen by Dan Wells
- Avalon Duology by Mindee Abnett
- Dove Arising by Karen Bao
- The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
- Existence by David Brin
- Illuminae Series by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
- Dragonback Series by Timothy Zahn
- Maximum Ride Series by James Patterson—teens bio-engineered with angel’s wings, pursued by teens bio-engineered as wolves.
Tech That Never Was (But Should Have Been) Tech
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
- Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel
- Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld—featuring steam-powered walking tanks and bio-engineered flying whales!!!
Almost There Tech
- Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld—featuring a hoverboard that floats over metal rails, or water with a strong iron content. Real efforts to create hoverboards have in fact produced two workable versions- one that operates only above a metal surface, and another that operates (using superconductors) over a magnetic surface. Aside from the lack of any ability to float over water, this tech really does exist.
- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams—the tech is as silly (and impossible) as the novel, but who wouldn’t love to own the spacecraft Heart of Gold?
Actual You Can Do This Tech
Technology just isn’t something in books or something made by other people. If you love tech, why not make it your career? Check out these non-fiction books to kickstart your quest!
- Careers for Tech Girls in Engineering by Marcia Amidon Lusted YA 620.0023 LUS
- Preparing for Tomorrow’s Careers Series:
- Powering Up a Career in Robotics by Peter K. Robin YA 629.892 RYA
- Powering Up a Career in Software Development and Programming by Daniel E. Harmon YA 005.12023 HAR
- Powering Up a Career in Nanotechnology by Kristi Lew YA620.5023 LEW
By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department
Mother’s Day will be celebrated in America this year on Sunday, May 8. Now, Darling Reader, I like and respect your intelligence and taste, hence I will not tell you the egregious lie that motherhood is all sunshine and lollipops and playdates in the park, even if your kids are as fabulous as mine. Honestly, some days are monsoons and Brussels sprouts and grouting all the bathrooms in your house. So the following list of amazing moms is not presented with the intent to make you feel less-than about your own life, but to remind you that they are fictional characters. I’d like to think that even Marmee March would quickly morph into Mommie Dearest if she had to hear the words “I don’t have anything to wear!” for the fifty-eleventh time, or “Why is there never anything good to eat in this house?” as they stand in front of a fully-stocked refrigerator and/or pantry. Not that my children would ever do that. But I digress . . .
Here, in no particular order of magnificent Mom-ness, are some of my personal favorite mothers from children’s literature:
Charlotte—Charlotte’s Web by EB White (J F WHI) Yeah, I know, most people don’t love on the arachnids, but Charlotte the Spider is such a kind and wise mother figure to Wilbur the Pig. She becomes his staunch defender, and eventually saves his bacon (OMG, I’m so sorry, I couldn’t resist.) SPOILER ALERT: even the most jaded reader will be hard-pressed to hold back the tears at the book’s close, with Charlotte’s life ending as her wee hatchlings’ lives are just beginning.
Mother Bird—Are You My Mother? PD Eastman (J E EAS) This book, about a baby bird who escapes from his egg a bit too early and goes in search of his mother (who is away from the nest procuring a tasty worm for her precious fledgling) is an excellent book to read for Mother’s Day. Birdlet asks a whole host of characters, from the living (kitten, hen, dog, cow) to the inanimate (car, boat, airplane, steamshovel), if they are his mother. With each response, Little Wing learns that they are not in fact his mother. Haven’t we all been this little bird at some point in our lives? Whether we’ve temporarily gotten disconnected from our mom in the wilds of Kroger or are living hundreds of miles away from her in a dirty cold unfriendly town somewhere above the Mason-Dixon Line, that desperate feeling when you just really, really need your mother is all too real. SPOILER ALERT: with an assist from the steamshovel called Snort, Birdie does in fact find his mother, and his dinner.
Molly Weasley—Harry Potter series by JK Rowling (J F ROW) The matriarch of the boisterous Weasley clan, Molly Weasley is a desperately needed maternal figure for our beloved Harry. She is the center and the moral compass of a large and raucous family, and is by turns gentle nurturer and fierce protector; the part during the Battle of Hogwarts, where Molly defends her daughter Ginny from the ghastly Bellatrix Lestrange, always makes me smile. I mean, a mom of a bunch of redheads with a magic wand? Righteous!
Sarah—Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (J F MAC) Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton answers widowed farmer Jacob Witting’s advertisement for a mail-order bride, and travels from her seaside home in Maine to vast, landlocked Kansas to meet Jacob and his children, Anna and Caleb. Will she like them? Will she stay? Does she sing? Anna’s and Caleb’s longing for a mother to love and to love them back nearly leaps from every page. Strong, independent, kind Sarah completes the Witting family.
Marmee/Mrs. March—Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (J F ALC) Literary moms don’t get any better than Marmee, or Mrs. March, mother of the March daughters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy (AKA the Little Women.) Kind, charitable, and loving, Marmee holds the March household together throughout the Civil War and Mr. March’s long absence serving as a chaplain. She can always be relied on, no matter what.
Raksha/Mother Wolf —The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (J F KIP) Although the snide query “What, were you raised by wolves?” is generally not indicative of someone having an abundance of grace and good manners, one could certainly do worse than having a mom like Raksha (which means “protection” in Hindi and other languages.) Not only does she save Mowgli the man-cub from being Shere Khan’s tasty tiger treat, but she takes him into her pack and raises him as her own. “And it is I, Raksha the Demon, who answers,” said Mother Wolf angrily. “The man cub is mine! He shall not be killed! He will run with my Pack and hunt with my Pack. In the end, you hunter of man cubs, you frog eater and fish killer . . . . he will hunt you!” Really puts the car rider line at your child’s elementary school into perspective, doesn’t it?
So, Darling Reader—regardless of your location or your circumstances, may you all have a blessed Mother’s Day.
As always, the random ramblings that are revealed here are the sole province of the author and may not be reflective of the opinions of any other WCPL employees, their children, or their pet pigs. The author has been compared to a mother wolf in the past, but sadly, she does not possess a magic wand.
By Stacy Parish, Children’s Deptartment
Hey, no kidding! April is National Humor Month. So, in no particular order of hilarity, here are 7 raucously funny children’s books to help you celebrate:
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! By Mo Willems (J E WIL) AR level 0.9, Caldecott Honor book
Pigeon just wants to drive the doggone bus. He begs, pleads, whines, and offers a bribe to the reader to let him drive the bus, to no avail. Pigeon’s frustration drives him to have a spectacular little meltdown when he doesn’t get his way, but as he is ranting and carrying on, a ginormous red semi pulls up, and Pigeon’s dreams of driving are rekindled.
Olivia by Ian Falconer (J E FAL) AR level 2.0
Olivia has been one of my personal favorites for more than a decade. I mean, how can you not admire and adore this charming, creative, confident, stylish creature? The original book spawned many more Olivia titles and an eponymous television show, but the whole Olivia experience — and often, parenthood itself— can be summed up by the last page, where Olivia’s mother kisses her goodnight and says, “You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.”
Duck! Rabbit! By Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld (J E ROS)
“Hey, look! A duck!” “That’s not a duck. That’s a rabbit!” And thus ensues the spirited debate over what, exactly, it is.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka (rhymes with Fresca) and Lane Smith (does not rhyme with Fresca). (J E SCI) AR level 3.4
“Oh, man! What is that funky smell?” And that’s not even the funniest line from this rollicking collection of short stories that totally lends itself to reading aloud in funny voices. Why, this anthology is so hilarious, it even comes with a SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: It has been determined that these tales are fairly stupid and probably dangerous to your health. Most of the stories are twisted variations on classic fairy tales; for instance, “The Stinky Cheese Man” is a modern retelling of “The Gingerbread Man.” Unhinged, I tell you!
He Came With The Couch by David Slonim (J E SLO) AR level 1.5
After an exhaustive search, Sophie’s family has finally found the perfect couch. But there’s just one catch to the couch: a mysterious blue Muppet-ish creature is currently ensconced upon it. Sophie and her family try valiantly to remove him (and also cure his raging case of upholsterosis) but to no avail. In the end, the little blue dude proves his worth when he saves Sophie from calamity.
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein (J E STE) AR level 2.2
This charming book will resonate with anyone who has ever attempted to get a child to wind it down to bedtime with a nice, relaxing story. Little Chicken wants Papa to read her a bedtime story, but she just can’t bear to see Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, et. al. make such potentially dangerous mistakes, so she keeps interrupting the stories and putting her own spin on the endings. Stein’s sweet story demonstrates that being an active participant in the storytelling process can be satisfying and very funny.
The Cat In The Hat by Dr . Seuss (J E SEU) AR level 2.1
Seriously, what list of humorous children’s books would be complete without the rollicking tale of the stovepipe-hatted feline troublemaker who shows up on a boring, rainy day with the sole mission of showing two well-behaved kids how to have a little fun? Yes, Cat completely trashes the house, but he cleans up his mess just in the nick of time, subliminally imparting a lesson to Sally and her brother (who was never officially named in the book, but was christened “Conrad” in the 2003 film adaptation, just so you’ll know.) Also, an ethical matter to consider is imparted in the final pages:
“And Sally and I did not know what to say.
Should we tell her the things that went on there that day?
Should we tell her about it? Now, what should we do?
Well . . . what would YOU do, if your mother asked you?”
Laugh it up, Faithful Reader—
***As always, the viewpoints espoused here are solely those of the author and not in any way reflective of the opinions of WCPL employees, their families, or their pet chickens. Also, the author’s last name doesn’t rhyme with Fresca, either.)